By Melissa Meador
RIDGELAND – Jabria Pounds’ bat provided the spark for Nettleton in Game 1 of the Class 3A fast-pitch softball state championship series on Friday.
Her teammates kept it going after her first inning, two-run home run, riding an early lead to a 9-3 win to take a 1-0 series lead against two-time defending state champion St. Patrick.
Game 2 is at 10 a.m.today.
“I was thinking inside the whole time,” said Pounds, a junior centerfielder playing her first season of fast-pitch. “Coach (Dana) Rhea told us to eliminate one side of the plate. I eliminated the outside pitch, and she gave me one hard inside, so I took it.”
Pounds’ two-run home run gave Nettleton (26-4) a 3-0 lead in the first, which also included an RBI single from Taylor Smith.
Helping her cause
The Lady Tigers added to the lead in the second off a groundout from Kaleigh Tackett and another hit by Smith. Pitcher MariAnna Young helped her own cause with an RBI single for a 6-0 lead in the third.
Nettleton was a hit away from ending it in the fifth after Lauren Baldwyn’s two-out RBI single and Tackett’s two-run double to deep right, but St. Patrick ace Sabrina Turner got a swinging strikeout to end the inning.
“We haven’t come together all season long, and tonight they stepped up and played good team ball,” Rhea said. “Turner’s a great pitcher, and she’s gotten folks out all year long. I think Jabria’s home run relaxed everyone.”
St. Patrick scored all three of its runs in the bottom of the seventh but managed just six hits off Young, who walked one and struck out two. Nettleton turned two double plays behind her and escaped a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the fifth.
“We played great defense tonight, and that’s what wins ballgames,” Young said. “Everyone really stepped up tonight. This win feels good but we know we have to come back strong tomorrow.”