SEASON PREVIEW: NORTHEAST HOPEFUL FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE DEEP PLAYOFF RUN
BOONEVILLE–The Northeast Mississippi Community College softball program aims to keep the momentum going in a positive direction after a sensational playoff run last season.
The Tigers were one win away from advancing to the national tournament after reaching the regional semifinals. Northeast also finished third at the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference (MACCC) Tournament.
Northeast is bringing back its starting battery along with four of the top seven hitters on that team by batting average. Add that to a solid freshman class and the Tigers have every reason to be excited about the 2023 campaign.
“We’re very balanced with 10 freshmen and 10 sophomores,” said Northeast head coach Jody Long. “We put those kids in some challenges this fall and they responded well. This bunch has a chance to be competitive and push each other each and every day.”
Emma Dempsey and Cassidy Duskin lead the group of returners as the starters in the circle for all but seven contests one year ago. They combined for a strikeout-to-walk ratio of over three-to-one and a sub-three earned run average (ERA).
Duskin received All-American honors from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) in 2022 after topping the Tigers with a 17-8 record, 20 complete games and a 2.19 ERA. Her 145 strikeouts were the sixth most in a single season in school history.
The University of North Alabama commitment is excellent offensively as well. The left-hander had a team-best .386 batting average with 61 total hits, including eight for extra bases, 38 runs scored, 22 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 18 attempts.
Dempsey will always be remembered as the winning pitcher during Northeast’s five-hour marathon victory versus Northwest Mississippi Community College in the MACCC Tournament. The Belgreen (Ala.) High School graduate went 8-6 overall with only 35 walks in nearly 100 innings of work.
However, the Tigers boast more arms than ever before. Freshmen Madison Bowman of Nashville, Tenn., Sarah Hindman from Birmingham, Ala., Ava Meeks from Kossuth and Hernando’s Janna Shaw will all tow the rubber for Northeast.
Hindman and Shaw both captured state championships while Meeks reached the semifinal round of the postseason twice at the prep level. Shaw was also an All-State selection as a senior according to Scorebook Live.
“We have probably the most depth and the most flexibility in the circle that I can remember probably in the whole time that I’ve been here,” Long said. “It’s going to come down to who puts us in opportunities to be successful.”
Emme Muizers of Hernando was the primary catcher by the end of last year for both Dempsey and Duskin. She had a .992 fielding percentage defensively and at the plate had a .358 on-base percentage with three home runs.
New Hope High School alumnus Charly Clanton joins Duskin in securing a third season of eligibility due to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak. They are the last two Tigers that will benefit from legislation in regards to pandemic relief.
Clanton is a true utility player that came to Northeast as a shortstop, but transitioned to the outfield last spring. She has career figures of a .313 batting average, 25 doubles, seven triples, seven homers and 76 RBIs over 96 games in a black-and-gold uniform.
Alexie Griffin of Atoka, Tenn., returns at the hot corner of third base after leading the Tigers during her inaugural campaign with 17 doubles. Saltillo’s Caitlyn Carnathan and Brianne Locke from Starkville are also left side infielders.
There are several options for Northeast on the right side such as Natalie McKinney from Saltillo, Annaleise Rogers of Red Bay, Ala., and Hindman at first base. Bre Harmon of Hatley and Allie Windham from Thrasher are competing for a role at second base.
The Tigers could rotate several athletes around the three outfield spots, including Kossuth’s Brooklyn Bascomb, Emma Callicutt from New Albany, Tupelo’s India Ivy, Katelynn King of Fulton, Elisa Claire Young of Thrasher and Duskin.
Young also made 25 appearances as Northeast’s designated player one season ago. She had the second most home runs on the team with seven, including three in one game against Kaskaskia (Ill.) College during the TigerFest Tournament.
“We’ve got quite a few kids that are versatile and could play multiple positions,” said Long. “We should be very good defensively. I think our offense came along in the fall. The biggest thing is just to try to continue to get those kids to work together.”
The Tigers have a program-record 16 home dates on the docket. League play starts on Saturday, March 11 as Pearl River Community College comes to town.