Special to the Journal
Everything seems to be going the way of the Itawamba Lady Indians softball team:
• MACJC North Division champions for the third straight season.
• Up to No. 11 in the nation, the highest ranking ever for the Lady Indians.
• A 17-game winning streak and a school record 35 wins for the season.
But every team is 0-0 as the playoffs begin among state junior colleges, and winning streaks and national rankings can be meaningless.
The Lady Indians step into the postseason today, hosting South No. 4 East Central for a 6 p.m. contest in a best-of-three series. Game 2 is set for Saturday at 1 p.m., with Game 3 to follow if needed.
“I think we’ve been playing really well,” Itawamba head coach Andy Kirk said. “The kids have been resilient, and they have been swinging the bats.”
The top two Lady Indians (35-10) with the bat this season are Kory Watterson from DeSoto Central with a .447 batting average, and Haley Moore from Fulton at .413. Watterson leads Itawamba with 11 home runs and 52 RBIs, and has 20 doubles, while Moore leads the state with 32 stolen bases.
Kirk will slate Hannah Johnson (15-4) from Branson, Mo., for the Game 1 starter, with Montana Hawkins (12-4) from Sulligent, Ala., as the Game 2 starter.
If the Lady Indians can win the series with East Central, Itawamba will host the remaining teams in the State Tournament May 2-4.
“This is a big goal for us,” Kirk said. “After this series, we’re either going to host it or be at home.”
East Central (32-14) is perhaps not a normal No. 4 seed. Central was standing in second place in the South until being swept in its last league series.
“They are not your typical No. 4 seed,” Kirk said. “They’ve won 32 games, and have one girl leading the state with 32 home runs.
“They swing the bat well, and will be a challenge to our pitchers.”
The Northeast Lady Tigers also begin the postseason today, but on the road. Northeast (21-25) will be at Jones County (41-2), with a 6 p.m. Game today, and Game 2 at 1 p.m. Saturday.