State softball semifinals boast elite field

By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal

The usual Northeast Mississippi suspects are playing today for the right to advance to Saturday’s MHSAA slow-pitch softball championships in Ridgeland.
Four of the teams – Hamilton, Nettleton, Smithville and West Union – have produced six state titles since the 2008 season. Nettleton’s won 3A state titles in ’09 and last season while Smithville captured 1A crowns in ’08 and last year. Hamilton in 2A and West Union in 1A were state champs in ’09.
“This is a great area for slow-pitch softball,” Nettleton coach Dana Rhea said. “That’s because a lot of schools promote slow-pitch softball.”
Corinth (24-7), which plays at Houston (21-10) in the 4A semifinals, played and lost in the state championships series last season to Newton County.
Corinth won a fast-pitch crown last spring.
Baldwyn (24-7), which hosts Hamilton (23-5) in the 2A semifinals, owns one of the two wins against Nettleton this season.
Smithville (20-11), which entertains West Union (19-10) in the 1A semifinals, is going for its third straight softball state title. The Lady Seminoles won the fast-pitch championship last spring.
Nettleton’s Lady Tigers (26-2) travel to South Pontotoc (21-11) today for a 3A semifinals series.
“This has been a great season,” Rhea said. “We’ve been consistent all year long. It’s been a total team effort all year.
“You can’t attribute it to one or two people.”
Defensively, the Lady Tigers count on shortstop Lauren Baldwyn, second baseman Molly Bramlett, third baseman Kaleigh Tackett and pitcher Anna Kent.
Offensively, everybody’s been involved and produced.
In an earlier 12-1 win against playoff participant North Pontotoc, the Lady Tigers got nine hits from the last five batters in their order – Harley Tucker, Chelsea Tucker, Brittany Adams, Taylor Smith and Brianna Holland.
“If it’s not the top of the lineup producing, it’s the bottom,” Rhea said.

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