By Adama Gore/Special to the Journal
NETTLETON – Behind a solid pitching performance from Michele Hester and clutch hitting from fellow seniors Hayley Parker and Jessie Patterson the Nettleton Lady Tigers claimed a 10-3 win in Game 1 of the MHSAA Class 3A North finals against Mooreville on Thursday night.
Patterson, who signed with ICC on Thursday afternoon, gave the Lady Tigers a 3-1 lead with a two-run single in the bottom of the first and Parker added a two-run single to extend the defending state champs lead to 8-3 in the bottom of the third.
Nettleton improved to 22-1.
“There’s not a lot you can say about a game like this,” said Mooreville coach Perry Wilburn. “Nettleton’s bats were hot and got the big hits when they needed them the most. Then they were making the plays defensively that it takes to win the big games like these.”
Parker tacked on the final run of the night on a deep sacrifice fly to center in the fifth inning.
“Our bats came to life tonight,” said Nettleton coach Chris Kidd. “We got off to a rocky start, but the bats really helped us out early. Hayley and Jessie both stepped up at the plate and led the way for our younger players to be able to come away with the win.”
Mooreville (23-8) got on the board when Lauren Lewis tripled and scored on a sacrifice bunt by Skylar Gregory in the first and added two runs in the third when Teri Richey scored on a wild pitch before Lewis scored on an infield single by Gregory.
Hester gave up three runs on three hits in the first three innings of play before settling down to give up only two hits in the final four innings of play.
“Michele struggled early, but the defense really picked up her up by making plays when we needed them,” said Kidd. “We still made some mistakes, but we were able to overcome them and stay focused at the task at hand.”
One of those plays came from Molly Bramlett, when the sophomore right fielder made a diving catch to rob Bentley Cochran.
“Their pitcher was consistent all night,” said Wilburn. “Our pitching struggled tonight and you can’t afford to do that against a team like Nettleton.
Richey gave up six runs on four hits, three walks, and one hit batter in two-plus innings of work before being replaced by Alex White.
The Lady Tigers take their 1-0 series lead to Mooreville for Game 2 and possibly Game 3 on Saturday.
“Mooreville is a tough place to play,” said Kidd. “They are going to be ready to play and we are going to have to match their intensity and come in focused ready to play on Saturday.”
“We’ve got to win Game 2 before we can have a shot at Game 3,” said Wilburn. “We’re going to have to be focused to be able to get the hits they we weren’t able to come up with tonight.”