Slow-pitch softball thrives in Northeast Mississippi

By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal

Reports of high school slow-pitch softball’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
More Northeast Mississippi teams than ever are scheduled to throw out the first pitch this weekend, including three from Calhoun County – Bruce, Calhoun City and Vardaman – who haven’t fielded teams in recent seasons.
“It’s going to be a neat experience, a learning experience, for the girls,” said Bruce fast-pitch coach Seth Burt. “I think playing slow-pitch will help us defensively. Now, offensively, I’m not sure.”
North Pontotoc slow-pitch and fast-pitch coach Shane Montgomery hasn’t noticed any of his players’ offensive skills affected by playing slow-pitch.
“If you can hit slow-pitch, you can hit fast-pitch,” he said. “The fast-pitch season doesn’t start until February.”
The Mississippi High School Activities Association’s regular season in slow-pitch runs through the last week in September. The playoffs begin the first week in October.
MHSAA SUPPORT
Slow-pitch softball will remain an athletics option for girls in the future, MHSAA executive director Don Hinton says, despite the fact that very few states play slow-pitch these days.
“As long as a number of our schools want to play, we will play,” he said.
Smithville coach Jeremy Duke, whose slow-pitch and fast-pitch teams won Class 1A state titles last season, wants to keep slow-pitch alive.
“I hope they don’t get rid of it,” he said. “It helps the players prepare for fast-pitch. It’s really good for working on your defense.
“It gives the girls three more months of softball.”
Nettleton coach Dana Rhea, who has won state titles in slow-pitch and fast-pitch with the Lady Tigers, said the programs help each other.
“I’m a big believer in slow-pitch,” he said. “The kids are out there swinging the bat, catching the ball and fielding the ball.
“Fast-pitch games are dominated by pitching and catching. Slow-pitch helps kids learn their defensive skills and fundamentals, because every pitch is usually hit.”
Dropping slow-pitch would eliminate a fall sport for girls. The coach’s would hate to see that happen.
“It’s a game any kid can play,” Rhea said.
“We’ve got a lot of girls involved,” Duke added. “I’ve got 20 in the program this year.”
“My kids enjoy it,” Montgomery said.
gene.phelps@journalinc.com