By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
A relaxed and confident Mallory Clouse sat on the infield dirt having her long, brown hair worked on by a teammate following last week’s crucial division victory by Mantachie against rival Mooreville.
Moments before, Clouse and her Lady Mustangs had beaten favored Mooreville, 8-3, to advance to today’s 5 p.m. first-round 3A state slow-pitch softball playoff series game at South Pontotoc.
Mooreville came into the Mustangs’ ballpark with 19 wins … and left with 19.
Earlier this season, Mantachie handed defending 3A state champion Nettleton one of its two regular-season losses – a 13-3 decision in Mantachie.
“We were pumped up for this (Mooreville) game,” said Clouse, a steady-fielding second baseman. “This win gives us a little boost. I think we can go far.”
First-year head coach Kristi Montgomery believes her Lady Mustangs (14-8) are capable of making some noise in the postseason.
A midseason change in the lineup has helped turn things around for Mantachie.
“We went through a slump at midseason,” Montgomery said. “We’d show up at times and other times, we were not the same group.
“We made some major changes in the middle of the season, got some things worked out, and they accepted it.”
Mantachie played the final eight games of the regular season with the same lineup, one that featured five seniors, including Clouse. The others are outfielders Maggie Oswalt, Allisa Patterson and Regan McFerrin, and shortstop Alli DeVaughn, who is playing despite having a dislocated knee cap.
First baseman Shelby Kindt, pitcher Brittany Adams and outfielder Shanna Carnathan are juniors while third baseman Tori Hendrick is a sophomore and catcher Anna Wagster is a freshman.
Adams and Clouse provided run-scoring doubles in the team’s win against Mooreville.
“We had our slumps (on defense) in the middle of the season,” Montgomery said. “We had mental errors, bad hops and played lazy.
“We hit the ball well during that time. We had to score a lot of runs to win.”
Two of Northeast Mississippi’s defending state champs – Nettleton (3A) and Smithville (1A) – are hosting series today. The Lady Tigers play Winona at 5 p.m. and the Lady Seminoles host Falkner at 5 p.m.