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Northeast Mississippi Community College’s storied softball team continues to rack up honors as we edge closer to the 2011 season.
Four players, as well the Lady Tigers coach, have been selected to represent the Lady Tigers in the 2010 Domino’s Mississippi JUCO All Star Showcase.
Sophomores Robin Franks, Leslie Hendrix, Taylor Moore, and Kelle West have been selected to play in the second annual event to be held at Ridgeland’s Freedom Ridge Park.
Joining the four ladies in Ridgeland will be Northeast head coach Jody Long, who along with Northwest Mississippi Community College coach Mike Rowan and Meridian Community College coach Robert Eakins will be coaching the North squad this year.
The Domino’s Mississippi JUCO All-Star Showcase was started in 2009 by Belhaven College head coach Rick Fremin to help showcase the best talent in Mississippi’s junior college system as well as to give them recognition and exposure to senior colleges around not only the southeast but the nation.
“All fifteen community colleges in the state participate,” explains Long, “Each team is made up of 30 players, so that’s 15 kids for the first game and 15 for the second.
“The biggest thing is there will be a lot of four year schools down there, so it gives them an opportunity to be discovered.”
The second annual All Star Showcase features a doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m. October 29, pitting the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) North plus independent Meridian against the MACJC South.
“Last year, the South won both games, the first was a one run game and the second the South beat the North 10-0,” said Long, “Hopefully with our kids we can help reverse that this year.”
Franks returns to the team after playing in 23 games last season. The utility player batted .286 with 4 runs batted in (RBIs). The Hernando native recorded a .304 on base percentage (OBP) and an .838 fielding percentage.
Hendrix is the only in district player honored as an all star. A former Kossuth Lady Aggie, Hendrix has the highest batting average (.366), RBIs (22), OBP (.437), and fielding percentage (.962) of returning sophomores.
The Northeast catcher, who has been named team captain for the 2010-11 Lady Tiger squad, added two home runs, two triples, and five doubles during her freshman season.
“It is an honor to be able to play in front of many four year colleges,” Hendrix said, “Being selected lets me know that I have a chance to play ball at the next level.”
Moore anchored the Northeast infield at second base her freshman season. The Bruce product hit .281 with 3 RBIs, but had a .374 OBP. Moore stole 93-percent of her bases successfully (13-14) and recorded an .873 fielding percentage.
West, originally from Hamilton, recorded a .345 batting average as a freshman with one home run, six doubles, and 18 RBIs and added a .429 OBP. The shortstop had an .870 fielding percentage and successfully stole every base she attempted (19-19).
“Most girls don’t get this opportunity,” West stated, “It’s wonderful to know I’m going to play against the best.”
“Probably the thing that sets these four girls aside is all four are very competitive,” added Long, “They hate to lose. I feel like they’ll take that mentality into this game.”
Long enters his sixth season at the helm of the Northeast softball program.
He was an assistant under Northeast Sports Hall of Fame coach David Carnell before taking over as head coach of the Northeast Lady Tigers in 2006.
Since taking over the program, Long has won two MACJC North Division crowns (2006, 2008), one North Division runner-up (2007), one National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region XXIII Tournament runner-up (2006), and has had two NJCAA Academic Team of the Year Top Ten finishes (2007, 2008). The Lady Tigers have made MACJC State Tournament appearances in four of his five years as head coach.
“I’m looking forward to it because I get to see the best players in the North,” Long said, “It’s going to be an exciting time.”
Northeast enters the 2011 season in hopes of redeeming themselves from last year’s 14-30 season, in which the Lady Tigers finished fifth in the MACJC North (10-14 record), missing the playoffs for the first time under Long’s tenure.
But the players feel like this year’s team will be back to their tradition of winning more than losing.
“I feel as though the 2011 season is going to be a big success,” Hendrix added, “Not only do we have talent but we have heart and a group of girls who are willing to put forth the effort to succeed this year.”
Northeast opens up the 2011 season February 11-12 by participating in the Northwest-Shoals Community College Tournament in Muscle Shoals, Ala.
The Lady Tigers open their home slate by hosting their annual TigerFest Tournament on February 25-26 at Booneville City Park. Opponents and times for both tournaments are still to be determined.
Northeast opens MACJC North Division at home March 4 by hosting East Mississippi Community College.