By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
Last Thursday night, Noah Hamilton spoke about how the MHSAA Division 2-3A coaches thought their division housed the three best teams in their classification.
Unfortunately for Hamilton’s Mantachie slow-pitch softball team, they won’t get a chance to prove it in the postseason. After Nettleton’s 4-1 win in extra innings over the Lady Mustangs on Thursday, it will be just Nettleton and Mooreville representing Division 2-3A in the playoffs beginning today.
“You got three really good teams in this division,” said Nettleton skipper Dana Rhea, “and one’s unfortunately staying home now – Mantachie.”
Mooreville, under the guidance of Perry Wilburn, finished behind undefeated Nettleton (20-0, 6-0) in the regular season. The Lady Mustangs (18-6, 3-3) missed the playoffs due to a head-to-head, run-differential tiebreaker with the Lady Troopers.
“I told them I would much rather be 28-and-something because that’s what it’s going to take for us to get to Jackson and win this thing,” Rhea said about addressing his players.
After losing to Clarkdale in the Class 3A state championship series last fall, Rhea’s Lady Tigers will be gunning for their first state title since 2009.
“We talked before the season started,” Hamilton said of his conversations with Rhea and Wilburn, “and we really felt – and we’re not bragging – like the three best teams in 3A are in this one division.
“We understand how it works and you just have to fight through it. But it’s a shame because these are the three best teams probably in 3A. ”
And after the regular season concluded Thursday evening, Rhea extended the notion of who’s the best to a couple of other area teams, including South Pontotoc, which, before moving to Division 3-2A, beat out Nettleton for last year’s division title.
Class 3A “is loaded in our area,” said Rhea. “You’ve got South (Pontotoc), you’ve got Kossuth, you’ve got Booneville, Nettleton, Mooreville … there’s just really good, solid ballclubs in 3A.
“And I think you can throw us all into a big cap and shake us up … and anybody can win this thing.”