Booneville, Miss. - The Northeast Mississippi Community College softball program is altering its schedule compared to years past in order to help prepare for league competition.
The Tigers will complete all their non-conference contests prior to the start of Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) play for the first time in program history as part of their 48-game 2017 slate.
Northeast revamped its calendar in order to get its players more experience on the field early in the initial month of the regular season. The Tigers have lost several dates due to bad weather in February over the last several campaigns.
The Tigers have not competed in more than 11 matchups before their first MACJC doubleheader in the previous four seasons. Northeast is tentatively set to take the field 20 times before it moves solely into action inside the Magnolia State.
"I want to try to get as many looks at our players as possible to try and figure out where our best nine are from an offensive and defensive standpoint," said Northeast head coach Jody Long. "Hopefully our kids can see a little more pitching and those type things."
The Tigers get things underway on Tuesday, February 7 by hosting Blue Mountain College's junior varsity squad. It will be the inaugural meeting on the diamond between these two local institutions.
Area softball fanatics are in for a treat just over one week later from February 17-18 as the annual TigerFest Tournament returns to all three fields inside the Booneville City Park complex.
Northeast entertains clubs from six different states, including as far north as Illinois and Missouri, for what is widely considered as one of the top events in the entire country.
The Tigers also enlisted in the Rush Invitational, which is hosted by Meridian Community College, for the first time since 2012. Northeast will battle Baton Rouge (La.) Community College, Heartland (Ill.) Community College and Spoon River (Ill.) College on Friday, February 24.
Northeast begins the month of March by welcoming Dyersburg State (Tenn.) Community College on the first and then traveling to Calhoun (Ala.) Community College two days later.
The MACJC portion of the schedule gets underway on Tuesday, March 7 at Coahoma Community College. The Tigers' first home conference twinbill is later that week against Hinds Community College.
Northeast and archrival Itawamba Community College tangle just once for the second consecutive campaign. The two adversaries square off on Tuesday, March 14 in Fulton.
The Tigers visit reigning region and state champion Jones County Junior College on Saturday, March 25. Another marquee date is Tuesday, April 11 when longtime foe Northwest Mississippi Community College comes to the City of Hospitality.
Northeast will celebrate and honor its sophomore class on Friday, April 21 during its final regular season games versus Southwest Mississippi Community College at David Carnell Memorial Field.
"Somebody from the MACJC is going to be contending for a national championship," Long said. "We'll tell our kids from day one that we don't want to lose the last game on our schedule. Day in and day out when we step onto the field we're going to bring our A-game."
A best-of-three elimination round kicks off the postseason over a two-day span from April 28-29. The MACJC State Tournament will take place the following week at the lowest remaining seeded team.
The top three squads from the state playoffs plus Louisiana State University at Eunice then clash in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 23 Tournament. The winner advances to the NJCAA Division II championship in Clinton.