Top softball seeds shake off lengthy break

By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal

Houston and Saltillo begin their second fast-pitch softball seasons this week.
At least, that’s the way it feels to Houston coach Keith Jernigan and Saltillo coach Lee Buse. Their top-seeded teams haven’t played in more than a week.
“It’s been like Day 1; we’ve started from scratch in practice,” said Buse, whose Lady Tigers play Brookhaven in a Class 5A second-round best-of-three series. “We were bad rusty the other day. It’s like starting over.”
Saltillo will not have played in nine days when it plays Brookhaven at 4 p.m. Friday. Brookhaven played last week in a “play-in” series.
“I think it’s an advantage for them, even though they are a lower seed. At least they’ve played,” Buse said.
The Lady Tigers defeated defending three-time Class 3A state champion Nettleton, 4-0, in their last regular season game.
“That’s a plus going into the playoffs … if the kids can remember what they did,” Buse said.
Saltillo is led by pitcher Hallie Frenn (11-4), a Gulf Coast Community College signee. She has recorded 165 strikeouts in 82 innings pitched.
“We’re pretty good with her in the circle,” Buse said. “She is an equalizer.”
Houston opens its run for a 4A state championship with a 6 p.m. game Friday at Senatobia. The Lady Toppers haven’t played in 11 days.
“We’re used to playing three games a week, then all the sudden we have this long layoff,” Jernigan said. “The girls have remained positive.”
Houston’s bats were starting to fire when the regular season ended. Jernigan hopes they will continue to produce in the postseason.
“We’ve been doing a lot of live hitting in practice,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll stay tuned in at the plate.”
The Lady Hilltoppers like their chances with senior left-hander Haley Gravat (22-1) in the circle.
“We feel really solid with her,” Jernigan said. “We’re confident in her pitching as many innings as it takes.”

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