HATLEY – Every now and then, just for motivational purposes, Dean Hudson will play a sports news television clip from last season’s state playoffs for his daughter, Lesley.
“It’s a recording that says, ‘Hamilton eliminates Hatley,’ ” said Hatley’s sophomore pitcher. “It was a one-run game.”
The loss remains stuck in craw of Hudson and her teammates. So much so, that the Lady Tigers haven’t supplied Lesley’s dad with any additional file tape this season.
Hatley (22-9) has won three consecutive playoff series and tangles with Enterprise-Clarke (27-4) for the MHSAA Class 2A state slowpitch softball championship, which is scheduled for today and Saturday at Freedom Park in Ridgeland.
“We have a little more desire this season,” said Hudson, a right-hander with a 18-6 record, a 1.39 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 150 innings. “We wanted to get where we are.”
Hatley is one of four Northeast Mississippi teams playing a best-of-three state championship slowpitch series this week.
In other championship series involving Northeast Mississippi teams, it’s Smithville vs. Bogue Chitto (1A), Nettleton vs. Clarkdale (3A) and North Pontotoc vs. North Pike (4A).
Hatley, Smithville and North Pontotoc play their openers at 6 p.m. today while Nettleton plays at noon because of graduation tonight.
Saturday’s Game 2s are scheduled for 10 a.m., with the third game, if necessary, to follow.
Hatley coach Chris George knows his players enjoyed the “taste” of reaching the North finals last season.
“We kind of expected this,” he said. “When I typed up the schedule for the season, I filled out the bottom with dates for the first round, second round, North and finals. I put it all on there.”
George was confident his young ballclub – one that includes a senior, six sophomores, a freshman and an eighth grader – had the potential to make some noise. And why not? He had Hudson on the mound and senior third baseman Courtney Fretwell returning.
Hudson’s been solid all season. “When she’s on, our team has more life,” George said. “She was outstanding in Game 3 against Eupora. She threw a one-hitter.”
Fretwell, who is batting .341 with 34 RBI, said the team takes a backseat to nobody. The Tigers have defeated Calhoun City and Baldwyn, along with Eupora, in the postseason.
“Leslie’s a good pitcher, and even when she has a bad day, we’re there to back her up,” Fretwell said. “We’re confident, not cocky. There’s a difference.
“We feel like we can compete.”
At one point this season, when George sensed his starters were getting complacent, he benched all of them but Hudson in a home tournament game.
“We were horrible that day,” Fretwell said, then smiled. “We got our heads back on.”
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal