NETTLETON – Nettleton punched an early ticket to the Class 3A state semifinals Friday, thanks to the efforts of almost too many heroes to mention:
– Harmony Hood threw 4 2/3 innings of hitless ball.
– Jessica Patterson went 3-for-4 with the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the seventh.
– Pinch runner Kori Beth Leach made an alert play to score on the hit.
– Heather Noe doubled to open the frame.
In the process, the Lady Tigers (20-1) fought back from a 4-0 Game 2 hole after two innings and finished off a sweep of visiting Booneville, 5-4, on Patterson’s walk-off single.
“The main thing is they kind of hang in there,” Nettleton coach Chris Kidd said. “They always do what they’ve got to do to get a chance to win.”
His team will face the Houston-Mooreville series winner with a chance to represent the North for a second straight year in the state finals.
Hood entered the game for starter Michele Hester in the third. She struck out four.
Hester came out after allowing four early hits, but only two earned runs. Two more came on an error as Allison Floyd reached base in Booneville’s 3-run first inning.
Leach was running for Noe, the catcher, who slid safely into second with a leadoff double. Kidd said his pinch runner made the decision to head home after seeing the ball ricochet into the outfield.
“She made a super good read on it. I was already stopping her,” Kidd said. “She saw the ball when it ricocheted.”
Booneville (19-6) had taken a 4-0 lead on its only four hits of the contest. Nicki Whitten had an RBI single in the first. She scored with Hannah Hastings on the Nettleton error and Raleigh Downs added an RBI single in the second inning, Booneville’s final hit.
“Extremely tough loss,” said Booneville coach Lee Boyette. “They laid it all on the line, played as hard as they could play. I had three kids on the ground trying to get a ball. You can’t ask for any more than that. I’m just as proud as I can be of them.”
Hester (15-1) came in with two on and two out in the seventh to retire Molly Lambert and pick up the win. Anna Kathryn Ward (12-5) took the loss, allowing two runs and striking out four in four innings of work.
Hood said her coach’s instructions and catcher’s quips helped her get going.
“He just told me to get out there and do my job,” Hood said. “Heather always gives me things to smile at. As soon as I struck the first girl out, everything just went up.”
BRANDON SPECK/Monroe Journal