By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
A very young, but talented Smithville softball team enters the high school fastpitch state playoffs today, looking to defend its 1A state championship.
The Lady Seminoles – whose lineup features two eighth graders, a freshman and four sophomores – play at 5 p.m. today at Pine Grove. The MHSAA second-round best-of-three series concludes at 4 p.m. Saturday in Smithville.
Youth was a good thing last season, Smithville coach Jeremy Duke said. The Lady Seminoles lost their state title opener to Natchez Cathedral, then rallied for two wins and the state title.
“We were fortunate to win last year after being down one,” Duke said. “I think youth helped us through it. I don’t think the players realized what they were doing.”
These Lady Seminoles are used to winning and playing for state championships. Smithville has won back-to-back slowpitch state titles and is seeking its fourth straight in the two sports.
The last Smithville softball team to be eliminated in the playoffs was the 2011 fastpitch club, which lost a second-round series the same spring the deadly EF-5 tornado hit.
“You do feel a little pressure to win,” Duke said. “It’s still just a game we play and we try to have fun. I don’t know if the players realize what we’ve done here.
“It’s been crazy … and a lot of fun. It would be a disappointment if we got put out (this season).”
Morgan Barrett, a freshman, is in the circle where she has posted a 13-4 record with 87 strikeouts. She replaced last season’s star hurler, Meagan Whitehead.
Joining Barrett in the lineup are eighth graders Angel Guyton (3B), Katie Beth Williams (OF), sophomores Lane Kennedy (SS), Breanna Edgeworth (C), Laken Armstrong (OF), Claire McNeese (DH), juniors Macy McCain (2B), Billie Claire Goode and senior Kyla Ford (1B).
Smithville enters the postseason with a 16-6 record against a competitive schedule.
“I think the players felt they came into the year with a target on their backs,” Duke said. “They’re starting to settle down and hit their stride. They’ve worked really, really hard this season.”