By Brandon Speck
NETTLETON – Kaleigh Tackett was chasing foul balls when Nettleton’s string of six straight Class 3A fast pitch championship series began.
Now, with fellow seniors Lauren Baldwyn and MariAnna Young, Nettleton is seeking a seventh shot and a fourth title.
There are multiple keys to Nettleton’s success, but one underlying key goes unnoticed.
Tackett, like junior Harley Tucker, who is leading the team with a .500-plus batting average, weren’t only chasing foul balls and sitting on buckets so their older teammates had a spot on the dugout bench. Not even then old enough to drive, they were learning.
“It means a ton. I think there are a couple of things that happen when you get them that young,” Nettleton coach Dana Rhea said. “First of all, they learn what to expect, the expectations we as coaches have for our players. And second, the learn how things are done.”
One way things have been done is in the weight room. Nettleton has been a player in state powerlifting, just as it has in softball. Tucker won a gold medal in the April 5 state meet.
Weightlifting started before the school began competing in powerlifting. Then-superintendent James Malone got it going.
“He had a passion for girls’ athletics’ and saw weightlifting as an avenue for success,” Rhea said. “It started out as a weightlifting period.”
Success came in softball first, which led to the school jumping into the powerlifting business.
Tucker is the lone powerlifter on the team now, but at one time, it was the whole team blaring Metallica and pumping iron for a whole school period.
The softball team lifts one period a day in the offseason.
“As a coach, I saw the change after probably the first year they were in the weight room,” Rhea said. “You could see them getting stronger. The illegal bats had been thrown around for years, but nobody knows the work that’s been going on around here since 06-07 of just lifting every single day.”