By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
Nettleton’s Lady Tigers are 20-2 and the defending Class 3A state champions in fastpitch softball.
“It doesn’t matter,” coach Chris Kidd said. “Everybody’s back to 0-0 now.”
Kidd’s team travels to Water Valley for a 6 p.m. first game of a best-of-three series today. The second game, and a third game if necessary, will be played at 5 Friday in Nettleton.
Kidd, who considers the postseason a separate season, thinks his Tigers can handle the pressure of trying to repeat as champions.
“When you have a good team there’s always pressure,” he said. “One plus for us is that we’ve got a seasoned group. They’ve been in the fire. They know what it’s like to have a target on their back.”
Nettleton looks to pitcher Michele Hester (18-0, 0.64 ERA) for leadership on the mound. She’s recorded 62 strikeouts in 87 innings pitched. She’s also batting a team-high .446 with 26 RBIs.
At the plate, third baseman Hayley Parker is second on the team with a .444 average in the leadoff spot. She has belted five home runs, eight doubles and five triples to produce a team-high 37 RBIs.
Defensively, shortstop Holly Schlicht heads up a strong infield.
“Right now is the time for defense to be a strong point,” Kidd said. “You never can take a day off on defense.”
Roberts on fire
The Kami Roberts-powered Smithville Lady Seminoles take a 20-5 record into the opening round of the 1A state playoffs.
Roberts, a junior pitcher, has posted a 13-3 record on the mound with 73 strikeouts in 80 innings and a 2.44 ERA. At the plate, she’s batting a blistering .628 with 20 doubles and 50 RBIs.
“She’s been on fire all year,” coach Jeremy Duke said. “I haven’t seen a hitter hit like that since I’ve been coaching. She’s is relaxed, having fun and enjoying it.”
Duke believes Roberts isn’t as stressed about her pitching this season.
“She’s been solid,” he said. “She’s had to adjust to the move (mound was moved 40 to a college depth 43 feet). She’s done a good job with it.”
Smithville plays the first game of its best-of-three series at Pine Grove at 4:30 p.m. today. The second and third game, if needed, is scheduled for 5 Friday in Monroe County.
Another leader for the Lady ’Noles is senior shortstop Whitney Fears, who is batting .420 with 33 RBIs.
“Whitney’s having a great year,” Duke said.