Opening day for the Northeast Mississippi Community College softball team turned out to be a historic afternoon as well.
The Tigers won their inaugural game of the 2017 campaign by a 13-5 margin at Dyersburg State (Tenn.) Community College on Friday, February 10 and in the process Jody Long became the winningest coach in the annals of this storied program.
It was the 257th victory of Long’s tenure as headman, which started in 2006. He passed his mentor, friend and predecessor David Carnell, who amassed 256 triumphs between slow-pitch and fast-pitch competition during his Hall of Fame career at Northeast.
“God’s blessed me with the opportunity to live out my dream,” said Long. “I’ve coached a lot of great young ladies with some awesome families. It’s truly been my life, but it’s not about me. I’m just blessed.”
The Tigers left no doubt that Long would capture this noteworthy accomplishment by scoring in each of the initial four innings on the way to a run-rule victory in the season-opener for both squads.
Hannah Cox had the first hit of the year for Northeast with a double that one-hopped the left field wall. She scored with two outs on Molly Walden’s bloop single that fell into center field.
The Tigers expanded their advantage to 3-0 by the end of their first turn at bat when Jessica Boyd’s fly ball was lost in the sun and dropped for a two-RBI single that brought home both Madison Davis and Walden.
The Eagles cut their deficit to 3-2 on a home run by Chay Poyner in the bottom half. But Northeast responded in the second with a sacrifice fly from Davis that allowed Jamia Kirk to touch home plate standing.
A six-run third gave the Tigers some breathing room. Lexi Brazeal had a run-scoring single while Tianna Castillo connected on a deep sacrifice fly for the first collegiate RBIs of their respective careers.
Tia Davis had the big hit of the frame for Northeast. She crushed a grand slam over the center field wall that helped the Tigers take a 10-2 lead into the bottom of the third inning.
It was the first long ball of Davis’ stellar tenure at Northeast. She concluded her evening with six RBIs after connecting on a single in the fourth that plated both Brazeal and Kirk.
“It felt really good and it helped us get the win,” Davis said. “I was looking for my pitch. Something that could get the momentum going to help the team out with runners on base.”
Boyd retired eight of the final 10 batters that she faced to secure the win in the circle. She scattered six hits and four walks plus struck out three in the complete game performance.
Dyersburg State (1-1) took the nightcap from the Tigers by a 9-0 score to split the series. Rebekah Morris took the pitching decision for Northeast with 10 hits in 3.1 innings of action.
Madison Davis, Tia Davis, Brazeal, Cox and Walden all had two hits on the afternoon to pace the Tigers offensively. Northeast (1-1) was also perfect in three stolen base attempts in the twinbill.
The Tigers played two flawless defensive contests. Brazeal led the way with zero errors at first base in 10 total chances while Anna Kayte Webb recorded three putouts and four assists from third base as well.
“We’ve got to get back to work,” said Long. “I really think if this team competes inning in and inning out that they’re going to have the opportunity to make some noise.”
Northeast returns to the diamond on Wednesday, February 15 with another trip into the Volunteer State to face Jackson State (Tenn.) Community College. A 1 p.m. first pitch is slated for game one.
CUTLINE –Jody Long became the winning coach in the history of the softball program at Northeast Mississippi Community College following the Tigers’ 13-5 run-rule victory over Dyersburg State (Tenn.) Community College on Friday, February 10. (PHOTO: Michael H. Miller/Northeast Public Information)