By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
ECRU – Dana Rhea was concerned the short dimensions – 205 to left and right, 210 to center – at North Pontotoc might hinder, not help, his slugging Nettleton team.
Nettleton’s outfield fence is in the 230-foot range.
“What scares you is that you might hit a lot of 200-foot fly balls,” said Rhea, the Lady Tigers’ coach. “We worked hard this week on getting balls out of the air.”
Nettleton, the state’s defending Class 3A champion, scattered its hits – 15 in all – high and low Thursday to defeat the Lady Vikings 12-1 in a shortened battle – five innings – between two of Northeast Mississippi’s top teams.
Nettleton exited the field with a 16-2 record while 4A North Pontotoc saw its record fall to 17-3.
Three of Nettleton’s hits – home runs by Kaleigh Tackett, Jabria Pounds and Brianna Holland – produced eight runs for the Lady Tigers.
“We’re used to our’s being long,” said Tackett, a third baseman, whose first-inning homer off North Pontotoc pitcher Abby Wilder gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead. “It’s fun playing on a short field like this.”
Pounds’ three-run homer was the highlight of Nettleton’s four-run second inning. Lauren Baldwyn added an RBI single.
Holland’s blast, another three-run shot, came on the first pitch. It helped the Lady Tigers increase their lead to 10-0.
“They made the plays and got the hits … and we didn’t,” North Pontotoc coach Shane Montgomery said. “They showed why they’re the No. 1 team in the 3A. It was all Nettleton.”
The Lady Tigers made it 12-0 in the fourth inning when they scored off back-to-back fielder’s choice ground balls by Taylor Smith and Holland. They plated Harley Tucker and Chelsea Tucker, who both reached base on singles.
North Pontotoc scored its lone run in the fourth on a rocket blast over the fence in left field by shortstop Brittany Seale.
“I’m proud of our players,” Rhea said. “They did an awesome job today. This team really good when they play well. We’re still trying to find our rhythm, find out who we are.”