SOFTBALL: Veteran Tigers show Wave the ropes

NETTLETON – A team loaded with experienced players played a team filled with novices Monday.
Obviously, the edge went to experience.
Nettleton pounded out 11 hits and played flawless defense to cruise to a 15-0, three-inning slow-pitch softball victory against a Tupelo team that featured five freshmen and eighth graders in its 10-member starting lineup.
“We have a lot of seniors and we’ve practiced together a lot,” Nettleton junior outfielder Jesse Patterson said. “We should be really good.”
Nettleton, which won a fastpitch state championship last spring, improved the 3-0 with the win in its home opener. The Lady Tigers defeated North Pontotoc and West Union in a weekend tournament.
“This is the oldest bunch we’ve had,” said Nettleton coach Dana Rhea, who welcomes back nine of his 10 starters from a 3A state playoffs team. “We’ve got six seniors, three juniors and a sophomore.”
Despite a veteran lineup, Rhea has cautioned his team not to look ahead.
“Every time we line up we want to keep it simple: Beat the next team,” he said.
Patterson, who went 3-for-3 with two RBI against the Lady Wave (0-3), said she and her teammates are taking nothing for granted.
“Our coach tells us we have a target on our backs,” she said. “We just go out there and do what we have to do to win.”
Sydney Clayton drove in three runs with a single and a double while Michele Hester’s double and single produced two more runs for the winners.
Senior pitcher Harmony Hood, a starter on the mound since her sophomore season, surrendered just three hits and received an error-free showing from her defense.
One of those players is senior shortstop Holly Schlicht, who is starting her fourth season in the middle.
“Defense wins games in slow-pitch,” she said. “I think it’s going to take a lot more defense to win (state in slow-pitch). The ball’s hit a lot harder.”
Rhea agrees with Schlicht’s assessment on what it takes to win on the slow-pitch diamond.
“Hitting is day-by-day; defense has got to stay,” he said. “When the hitting’s not there, defense keeps you in the game.
“However, we do have the potential to hit the ball well. This may be the best hitting club we’ve had.”

Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal