By Brandon Speck
Ho hum. Nettleton again. For the seventh straight season, the Lady Tigers are playing for a Class 3A state fast-pitch championship, Friday and Saturday at Ridgeland’s Freedom Ridge Park.
Nothing boring about that to coach Dana Rhea.
“We’re playing for a state championship. It never gets old playing for a state championship,” Rhea said.
Nothing boring about what has become an annual rivalry, either. For the fourth straight season, it’s Nettleton vs. St. Patrick (26-3-2). Nettleton (25-4) has won three championships in the six-year run, the last in 2011. St. Patrick has won two straight.
“You’re going to be playing the best when you get down there,” Rhea said. “They’ve done what they need to do. We have, too.”
On the roster for the Lady Tigers are three seniors who were in the sixth grade when this all started, shortstop Lauren Baldwyn, pitcher MariAnna Young and third baseman Kaleigh Tackett.
Nettleton has won 18 of its last 19 games, the lone loss coming to Mooreville in the state quarterfinals. But three of the Tigers’ last four games were won 3-1 or 3-0.
“We haven’t played particularly well the last couple series,” Rhea said. “We’re playing good team softball right now. We’re going to have to play better if we’re going to win it.”
Rhea says there is no magic potion to keeping Nettleton’s success going, but there is a strategy.
“The only thing I can tell you is what I’ve tried to do since I’ve taken over and what me and Chris (Kidd) did, surround yourself with good kids and good people and good things are going to happen,” he said. “They work hard and do the best job they can do and that’s all you can expect. I think winning becomes an attitude and they just develop that winning attitude. They don’t like to lose.”