By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
KOSSUTH – Nettleton, the state’s three-time defending MHSAA 3A champion in fastpitch softball, needed a wake-up call on Saturday.
Kossuth provided the alarm with a ringing 9-3 victory in the second game of their best-of-three state quarterfinals series.
The stunned Lady Tigers responded in the deciding third game, coming back to claim a 5-2 win to advance to a state semifinals series against Booneville later this week.
“That first game today woke us up,” said Nettleton sophomore third baseman Kaleigh Tackett, who went 4 for 5 with two RBI in the two games. “Our focus wasn’t there. We came out in the second game and did our thing.”
Nettleton (22-4), which won the series opener, 8-4, Friday at Nettleton, jumped out to a 3-0 lead in Game 2.
Kossuth (20-14) tied it with a 3-run second inning, then took the lead for keeps, 4-3, in the third when Madison Hales doubled and scored on a fielder’s choice ground ball by Paden Tomlin.
The Lady Aggies scored one run apiece in the fourth and fifth to chase Nettleton starter MariAnna Young, then put the game away with a 3-run sixth. Jordan Dickson’s 2-run double and Hales’ RBI single were the key hits.
Young (21-4), a sophomore right-hander, struggled with her mechanics and the heat in Game 2.
“I was tired and I needed to rest,” she said about coach Dana Rhea taking her out. “He knew we were going to play a second game and I’d have to pitch.”
Kossuth eighth grade starting pitcher Kristen Devers tamed the Tigers in Game 2, holding them to seven hits, all singles.
“We’ve hit in spurts; it comes and goes,” Nettleton’s Rhea said. “Kossuth’s pitching had a lot to do with that.”
For Nettleton, a rested Young was a lot more effective in the circle in the deciding third game. She gave up six hits, including a double by Dana Glissen that led to an Aggies run in the first inning.
Young got some support at the plate in the form of nine hits – three from Tackett and a double by Makenzie Hawkins – and five 1-run innings.
The Tigers also benefited from six Kossuth errors in the third game.
“You don’t let the defending state champions on base with errors,” Kossuth coach Steve Lyles said. “When you do that, you get beat.”