Sydney Clayton didn’t win a state championship last season for Nettleton High School in girls powerlifting.
The 130-pound blonde lifts in the 148-pound class. Maybe that’s why.
“I have to drink tons and tons of water to make the 132-pound limit to lift in that class,” she said, then laughed.
But Clayton’s quest is not to win powerlifting honors. Instead, the senior wants another state championship ring in softball, and lifting weights, she believes, will help her and the Lady Tigers achieve that goal.
Nettleton won a fast-pitch state championship last spring and has opened the slow-pitch season on fire, jumping out to a 13-1 start.
“Lifting weights has helped us a lot,” said Clayton, an outfielder who bats cleanup. “I think it’s helped me a lot with my hitting. I’m hitting the ball a lot harder and a lot farther.”
Nettleton coach Dana Rhea credits his team’s weight training with its success on the diamond.
“It’s paid dividends,” he said. “It’s made us stronger. We can do a lot more things with the bat.”
The team doesn’t lift heavy weight during the season, however. Sore muscles and base hits don’t mix.
“We’re just trying to maintain,” Rhea said.
“We’ve scaled down our lifting,” said senior third baseman Heather Noe. “We lift four times a week and work on our abs once a week. We don’t do so much that we get sore.”
Noe, who started lifting weights last season, believes it has helped the team improve.
“We’re all hitting the ball harder,” she said. “You can see an increase in everybody’s ability. We’ve progressed a lot physically and mentally.”
Rhea, whose lineup features six seniors, said he stresses playing good defense and timely hitting.
Noe, shortstop Holly Schlicht, second baseman Makenzie Hawkins and first baseman Michele Hester give the Lady Tigers one of the area’s top infields.
“Their shortstop (Schlicht) is one of the best defensive players in the area,” North Pontotoc coach Shane Montgomery said. “I think they’re really a good hitting team.
“It’s all about playing good defense, getting timely hits, and getting runners home.”
The lone team to find a flaw in the Lady Tigers’ armor thus far has been West Union. The Lady Eagles defeated them 5-3 last week in the Nettleton Tournament.
In that loss, the usually potent-hitting Lady Tigers collected just three hits off West Union starter Rachel Baker, a senior with 100-plus games under her belt.
“We caught them at the right time,” West Union coach Andy Kirk said. “They just had one of those games when they didn’t hit.”
Actually, the Lady Tigers did hit the ball, Kirk said. “They hit it right at us … and they hit it hard.”
Nettleton, a 3A school, defeated 1A West Union in a preseason season tournament. It’s the type matchup Kirk believes will get his ballclub ready for a postseason run.
“Nettleton’s as solid as they come, one through 10,” he said. “They’re the best team around, no doubt.”
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal