February 17, 2019
The East Central Community College softball team opened the 2019 season with a pair of wins at the Northeast Mississippi Community College TigerFest Tournament, and in the process gave Eric Neel his first win as head coach of the Lady Warriors.
The ECCC Lady Warriors finished 2-1 against three NJCAA Division I teams in play on Friday, Feb. 15, in the tournament held in Booneville. East Central defeated Calhoun Community College (Ala.) 7-4 in its season opener, followed by a 12-10 loss to Jefferson College (Mo.), and then a 9-8 win over Southeastern Illinois College. All three games were six innings due to time limits set for the tournament games.
East Central was scheduled to play five games over the two-day tournament Feb. 15-16, but all action on Saturday was canceled due to weather.
“Our team competed extremely hard,” said Neel who took over the program last July. “We played as we expected to on offense. If our pitching continues to improve along with our defense we could have a special season.”
In the season-opening win over Calhoun, the Lady Warriors got three hits and two RBI each from freshman third baseman Hannah Dufault and freshman shortstop MaKenzie Barnett. Dufault, out of East Central High School in Hurley, had a pair of solo home runs and a double, while Barnett of Neshoba Central had two singles and a double. Freshman right fielder Olivia Houston out of Northwest Rankin had two doubles.
Sophomore Annika Jones of Leake Academy got the win in the circle, as three East Central pitchers limited Calhoun to six hits.
East Central lost a heartbreaker in game two against Jefferson College. The Lady Warriors had a 10-5 lead after four innings before Jefferson College scored three runs in the top of the fifth and four more in the top of the sixth for the 12-10 win.
The Lady Warriors had only seven hits in the loss, but three of those were home runs, including a three-run homer by Houston, a two-run shot by freshman catcher Anna McNeer out of Canton Academy, and a solo home run from freshman center fielder Parker Breland of Union. Houston had four RBI in the loss and Barnett also drove in a couple of runs with a single.
In the final game of the day, East Central and Southeastern Illinois battled back and forth through the first five innings. Tied 7-7 in the top of the sixth, the Lady Warriors got the winning runs on sacrifice flies by Houston and freshman catcher Kelli Ficken of Central Hinds Academy.
Dufault added three more RBI to her total for the day with a pair of doubles. Freshman left fielder Kaylee Webb (Ruston, La.) stole four bases in the win. Freshman pitcher Jesalyn Jarrette (Baskin, La., Franklin Academy) got the win in the circle in relief.
For the day, East Central banged out five home runs and 10 doubles.
The Lady Warriors are scheduled to play five games next weekend in the Rush Invitational in Meridian. East Central will face Wabash Valley College (Ill.) at 11 a.m. and Southeastern Illinois at 1 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 22, and John A. Logan College (Ill.) at 9 a.m., Trinity Valley Community College (Texas) at 11 a.m., and Coastal Alabama-North Community College at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23.
The first home doubleheader of the season is Monday, March 4, when Lansing Community College (Mich.) visits the Softball Complex in Decatur for a doubleheader beginning at 3 p.m.