By Amy Robertson/Special to the Journal
MOOREVILLE – The Mooreville Lady Troopers had hoped to even the Class 3A North finals series on Saturday afternoon when Nettleton came to town, but thanks a barrage of hits and the pitching of Michele Hester, the Lady Tigers slammed the door shut with a 13-2 win.
The win advances Nettleton, the defending 3A champions, into this week’s state tournament in Ridgeland.
Mooreville coach Perry Wilburn said he knew that playing a defending state champion would require strong hitting and fielding, something his team had done well against Nettleton during the regular season when they handed the Lady Tigers their only loss, but Saturday was a different story.
While Mooreville’s pitcher, Teri Richey, struggled with pitch placement, the Lady Troopers were struggling with errors and well-placed hits by the Lady Tigers. Nettleton had 13 hits on the day.
“They hit the ball well and we made some mistakes early that ended up costing us. You just can’t do that against a good team,” Wilburn said.
Nettleton stepped out to a 3-0 in the first inning after Michele Hester hit the sacrifice to score lead-off hitter Hayley Parker. Two batters down the card, Jessie Patterson hit a line drive into deep center which was bobbled. The error allowed Makenzie Hawkins and Anna Kent to score.
Mooreville got their only two runs in the bottom of the first with a double by Kelsey Miller, but Nettleton quickly answered with a double play to end the inning with a 3-2 Nettleton lead. Hester gave up her only three hits of the game in the bottom of the first.
The Lady Tigers opened up to a 10-2 lead in the top of the third behind five hits including a triple by Kaleigh Tackett that drove in Korie Leach who had reached on a single to start the inning. With two runners on, Mooreville’s Teri Richey walked Hayley Parker. Successive hits by Hester, Kent and Patterson pounded the Mooreville outfield and unload the base, giving the Lady Tigers a convincing 10-2 lead in the bottom of the third inning.
At this point the “silent” leadership of Hester took over for the Lady Tigers.
Hester has “gone above and beyond expectations,” said Nettleton coach Chris Kidd. “She’s a silent leader. What she did today, she does on an every day basis. She gives us opportunities to win.
“She and Hayley Parker, Jessie Patterson and Makenzie Hawkins have been our leaders. They’ve been through this before. They are good role models for our younger players.”
In the fourth inning, Mooreville switched pitchers, replacing Richey with Alex Wright, after Nettleton’s Tackett hit a double to drive in Leach for the 11-2 lead. Wright allowed no more hits by Nettleton in the inning, but the damage was done.
In the next two innings, Hester allowed no hits and got three of her six strikeouts in the last two innings.