Hard-working young Lady Noles in finals

By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal

SMITHVILLE – A blend of country and rock music played over the speakers Tuesday afternoon at Smithville High School’s softball field.
On the dirt infield and in the grass outfield, the Lady Seminoles were producing their own sounds with their bats, gloves and practice chatter.
Smithville’s season isn’t over. The Lady Noles play Natchez Cathedral this weekend in the MHSAA Class 1A state playoff best-of-three championship series at Ridgeland’s Freedom Park.
“Nobody expected us to be where we are,” senior pitcher Meagan Whitehead said, moments after taking her practice cuts at the plate. “This is what we start off every season working toward.”
The main reason nobody expected to see the Lady Noles in the title series was their youth. Whitehead and outfielder Taylor Ann Boozer are the lone seniors. The remainder of the starting lineup features one junior, two sophomores, three freshmen and a seventh grader.
“People were saying, ‘Y’all are so young,’’’ Whitehead said. “The young players have talent and experience.
“A lot of people have underestimated us. We’ve proved a lot of people wrong.”
Whitehead, who has a 15-3 record with a 1.36 ERA and 55 strikeouts, will be in the circle. She throws in the low 50s and possesses a change-up and rise ball.
A freshman, Breanna Edgeworth, leads the team with a .481 batting average.
Smithville coach Jeremy Duke thought his team could make a serious run after it captured the slowpitch state championship in the fall.
“I thought we were a year away when we started,” he said. “I knew we had some good, young players.
“Then I thought we had a chance (in fastpitch) depending on how well Meagan did in the circle. She’s done a great job, just like we thought.”
Smithville played in the fastpitch state finals in 2010, losing to Bogue Chitto after taking a 1-0 lead in the series.
The team’s success in slowpitch, Whitehead believes, has helped the team’s confidence as it prepares for the fastpitch finals.
“I think it’s carried over,” she said. “It would be amazing to win in fastpitch, too.”
gene.phelps@journalinc.com