Class 3A softball playoffs:
Alcorn Central 0-3
NETTLETON – With only one loss on its resume, Nettleton wasn’t interested in adding another to its record in the first round of the MHSAA Class 3A fast-pitch playoffs on Monday.
Sophomore pitcher Michele Hester made sure that didn’t happen, tossing a no-hitter in a five-inning 16-0 win in game one. She improved to 12-1 for the season in Game 2, a 13-3 Nettleton win in five innings.
The Lady Bears reached base only twice in the first game, on a dropped third strike and on Hester’s only walk against seven strikeouts.
Katie Leach’s bases clearing double gave Nettleton (16-1) an 11-0 game one lead. In the bottom of the fourth, Hayley Parker’s two-run home run made it 16-0. Hester struck out the side to end it in the fifth. Parker’s second two-run shot ended the series in game two.
“We put a lot of balls in play after the first inning, made them make some plays,” Nettleton coach Chris Kidd said of the opener. “I think we did a pretty good job of putting pressure on them.”
Alcorn Central (9-13) committed four errors in the game, two to put the first two batters of the fourth inning on base, something Lady Bears coach Charlotte Foster isn’t used to seeing.
“Our nerves got us on that game. We haven’t had those kinds of errors since the very beginning of the season,” said Foster. “We knew (Hester) had a good fastball and a great change-up. We just didn’t put the bat on the ball.”
Nettleton isn’t shy about using its speed. In game two, Kimmy Nicholson’s double drove in two runs to give the Lady Tigers an 11-3 lead in the fifth. The lone Nettleton senior then stole third base to set up Parker’s second home run and series clincher.
“Speed is something we kind of live with throughout the year,” Kidd said. “I tell them to put pressure, pressure, pressure. Pressure is the name of the game. The more pressure you get, you’re going to make them make bad throws. They’re going to force things.”
Alcorn Central, which starts three eighth graders, had taken a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning of game two when Megan Smith’s bases-clearing double gave her team its first lead of the night. Nettleton scored seven runs in the bottom of the inning though.
“We didn’t start out hitting the ball quite like we did in the first game,” Kidd said. “They played a little bit better defense. We went down 3-1, but didn’t let that bother us too much. They hung in there and starting swinging the bats a little bit better.”
Parker, a sophomore finished the series 3-for-7 with six RBIs. She said forgetting about being down 3-1 was key.
“We knew we had to hit,” Parker said, “and we had to get that out of our head and hit.”
Nettleton will face the winner of the Winona-North Pontotoc series on Saturday in Nettleton.
Brandon Speck/Monroe Journal