Biloxi, Miss. – The long-standing tradition of competing in the postseason will continue for the Northeast Mississippi Community College softball program following a one-year hiatus.
The Tigers will travel to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College for the first round of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) State Playoffs.
The best-of-three series begins on Friday, April 28 at 6 p.m. and concludes with games two and three, if necessary, at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 29. All three contests will be played on the campus of Biloxi High School.
Every Northeast playoff game will air live and in high definition on NEMCCTV. Tune in starting 10 minutes prior to first pitch for the pregame show by visiting www.nemcctv.com on any computer, tablet or smartphone.
The Northeast Broadcasting Network also includes Booneville based radio station WBIP. An audio simulcast featuring Jody Presley and Carter Smith, the Voices of the Tigers, can be heard on 99.7 FM and AM 1400 on your digital dial.
Northeast missed the postseason for just the second time in the history of the fast-pitch program during the 2016 campaign, but rebounded this year by increasing its win total by 14 victories overall and by seven triumphs in conference play.
It is the 15th playoff appearance for the Tigers since transitioning from slow-pitch competition in 2001. Northeast finished in a tie for sixth in the MACJC standings with a 15-13 record against league opponents.
The Bulldogs are ranked No. 7 in the latest National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II poll. Mississippi Gulf Coast was the regular season state runner-up behind Jones County Junior College.
"These kids have really competed hard and bought into everything that we've asked them to do," said Northeast head coach Jody Long. "Everybody contributes in some way and it's going to take those type things moving forward for us to be successful."
The turnaround is evident across the board for the Tigers, who have been ranked as highly as No. 16 in the NJCAA poll themselves this year. The 29 wins by Northeast are the sixth most in program history.
Jessica Boyd has also inserted herself into the record books for her expertise in the circle. The reigning MACJC All-State selection has compiled a 20-8 mark with 16 complete games and a solid 3.01 earned run average (ERA).
She is only the third Tiger to ever win 20 or more contests in a single season and the first to do so in 18 years. Boyd joins an elite list that includes All-Americans Lauren Chunn, who holds the record with 27 triumphs during the 2001 campaign, and Josie Lindgrin.
The St. Joseph, Mich., native also currently sits at third all-time for the Tigers with 160 strikeouts. Boyd leads the Magnolia State in punchouts and is tied for sixth nationally with Kyla Blankenship of St. Louis (Mo.) Community College.
Boyd is in a stalemate for fifth in the country with 167.2 innings logged during her sophomore campaign. She is knotted with Kaitlyn Oswalt of East Central Community College for the most wins in the MACJC.
"I try to work hard for my team," Boyd said. "I can't do it all myself. I have to rely on my team behind me and if I don't work hard then I can't expect them to either. So as a leader I've tried to set an example."
Tia Davis has done the same as Boyd and left her mark as one of the greatest offensive players ever at Northeast. She guides the Tigers with a .371 batting average and is second in the conference with 18 doubles.
The North Pontotoc High School graduate is just the fifth Northeast standout to notch over 60 hits in a year. Davis is only eight base knocks away from the program record of 70 set by All-American Shanika Randle in 2008.
Davis is also within reach of setting new school records in doubles, where she is one behind Callie Weaver's 19, and runs scored. She trails Alicia Capps' 50 runs accumulated during the 2003 campaign by only three.
"I've been pushing myself each and everyday," said Davis. "I'm very excited and just blessed that God has given me the opportunity to lead this team. We all just stay positive, encourage one another and play to the best of our ability."
Madison Davis of Booneville tops the Tigers (29-19) with 31 RBIs while Shaquera Wilson from Columbus has a team-high .428 on-base percentage on the strength of 32 free passes between walks and hit by pitches.
The Tigers are solid defensively with a stellar .957 fielding percentage. Northeast has four everyday starters with an individual percentage of .990 or better, including perfect fielders Kristen Cartwright and Molly Walden out of Prentiss County.
The Bulldogs (35-10) are led by Lexie Mathis with team-highs of a .417 batting average, 46 runs and 14 doubles. Izzy Werdann has 49 RBIs to her credit while Brittney Triplett boasts 56 hits and 30 stolen bases.
Nora Keehn and Aidan Nichols handle all the work on the pitching rubber for Mississippi Gulf Coast. The duo has combined for 250 strikeouts compared to 71 walks and hold a staff ERA of 1.97.
"We've gotta play extremely well defensively," Long said. "Everybody has to be on the same page mentally, emotionally and physically. If both teams play mistake free, then it's going to come down to the team that gets the timely hit."
The winner between Northeast and the Bulldogs will face either East Mississippi Community College or Itawamba Community College next weekend at the 2017 MACJC State Tournament.