By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
In Smithville, softball is a big deal, a really big deal. If trends continue, the Lady Noles are going to need a bigger trophy case.
The defending Class 1A state fast-pitch champions are 8-3 entering tonight’s game with Hamilton in the Monroe County Tournament, with a pair of one-run losses in the chilly Tupelo tourney on their resume. Smithville has quality wins over South Pontotoc, Amory and Mantachie.
Coach Jeremy Duke has also led his team to back-to-back slow-pitch championships. Winning softball is an expectation.
“Always one of our goals is getting down there. Getting down there and winning it is two different things,” Duke said. “The North is strong.”
Smithville will focus on winning a Division 4-1A title, but winning the Monroe Tournament this weekend will take center stage in a county that’s accustomed to sending up to four teams to state finals series.
Vardaman should be Smithville’s toughest division challenge, joined in a strong North by Ingomar and West Union.
“It’s going to be tough but we fully expect to try and make it back,” Duke said.
Freshman Morgan Barrett (7-3) took over a role in the circle where Meagan Whitehead had dominated. Smithville has one senior this season in utility Kyla Ford and only two juniors with Macy McCain and Billie Claire Goode.
Two eighth graders, two ninth graders and four sophomores – including veterans Lane Kennedy, Breanna Edgeworth and Laken Armstrong – start.
“I think if we don’t make it back down there, it will be a disappointment for us, but that’s why we play,” Duke said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to win it the last three times we’ve gone. We’ve been playing well.”