The quest for a second straight MACJC State Tournament Championship begins Thursday for the 8th-ranked Jones County Junior College Lady Bobcats softball team.
Coming off a 44-11 season that saw them claim their first-ever state title, finish second in the Region 23 Tournament and advance to the NJCAA Division II National Tournament for the first time in school history, the Lady Bobcats have answered the bell in outstanding fashion in 2013.
Despite losing its top two pitchers and two middle infielders, JCJC currently owns a 36-6 record heading into postseason play. They finished with a 19-5 MACJC South Division record, which was good enough for second place behind Mississippi Gulf Coast.
MGCCC will serve as tournament host and the Lady Bobcats will open the tournament with a noon game on Thursday (weather permitting) vs. the North's No. 3 team, Holmes.
Other first-round games include Pearl River (South No. 4) vs. Itawamba (North No. 1) at 2 p.m., East Central (South No. 3) vs. East Mississippi (North No. 2) at 4 p.m. and Miss. Gulf Coast (South No. 1) vs. Northeast (North No. 4) at 6 p.m.
The semifinals are set for noon and 2 p.m. on Friday with the championship game slated for 5 p.m. It will be an eight-team, single-elimination tournament.
All games in the tournament will be webcast on www.mgcccbulldogs.com.
The top five teams in the state tournament advance to the Region 23 Tournament, along with LSU-Eunice. That will be held May 9-11 at Traceway Park in Clinton.
The top two teams from the regional will go to the NJCAA Division II National Tournament May 15-18 in Clinton.
No. 8 Lady Bobcats vs. Holmes
The Lady Bobcats have put up some impressive numbers this year, starting in the circle.
Iowa, La., freshman Samantha Buller is currently 21-2 with a 0.98 earned run average. She has been the MACJC Pitcher of the Week twice and the NJCAA Division II National Pitcher of the Week once. She has pitched 128 1/3 innings, allowed 75 hits, walked just 14 and struck out 101.
Nettleton sophomore Michele Hester is 13-4 with a 2.08 ERA. She has pitched 114 2/3 innings, allowed 109 hits, walked 15 and struck out 34. Raleigh freshman Dana Arender is 2-0 with a 4.94 ERA in 17 innings pitched. She has given up 11 hits, walked six and struck out 12.
JCJC has numerous weapons on offense.
Enterprise sophomore third baseman Bethany Volking leads the starters with a .423 batting average. She has one home run and 36 RBIs. Nettleton freshman second Makenzie Hawkins, the reigning MACJC Player of the Week, is hitting .407 with eight home runs and a team-leading 48 RBIs.
Shubuta sophomore centerfielder Relanda McFarland is hitting .395 with one home run, 13 RBIs and 40 runs scored. The William Carey University signee was an MACJC Player of the Week earlier in the season. Lake Charles, La., sophomore catcher Brooke David is hitting .374 with five home runs and 31 RBIs.
Seminary sophomore Karley Crosby bats .363 with a team-leading 14 home runs and 44 RBIs. She was an MACJC Player of the Week earlier in the season. West Lauderdale freshman leftfielder CC Lawn is hitting .301 with 25 runs scored.
Seminary sophomore rightfielder Rebecca Dunn is hitting .333 with three home runs and 18 RBIs, while Columbia redshirt freshman shortstop Kalyn McNabb bats .301 with three homers and 15 RBIs.
Madison Central sophomore outfielder Brittney McBrain is hitting .453, while South Jones freshman outfielder Reagan Gavin is hitting .393 with two home runs and 14 RBIs.
Vancleave sophomore catcher Angela Land hits .204 with two home runs, while Taylorsville freshman Keni May, who has been used mostly as a courtesy runner, hits .333.
As a team, JCJC has a .354 batting average, compared to .215 for their opponents. The JCJC pitching staff has a 1.68 ERA.
Holmes enters the game with a 19-25 overall record. The Lady Bulldogs, however, were 15-9 in the North Division and ended up in a tie for third with Northeast and Northwest. They got third based on the tiebreaker, while Northeast was fourth and Northwest was left out of the tournament.
Offensively, Holmes is led by Charneissa Goodson, who owns a .323 batting average with one home run and 20 RBIs. Keana Wash hits .258 with one homer and 13 RBIs and Victoria Hunt bats .255.
Kelsey Marter is Holmes' top pitcher. Marter is 13-9 with a 1.69 earned run average. In 149 1/3 innings, she has allowed 139 hits, walked 19 and struck out 76.
At Ross-Smith Field
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College
Game 1, Jones County (36-6, South No. 2) vs. Holmes (19-25, North No. 3), noon
Game 2, Pearl River (24-20, South No. 4) vs. Itawamba (31-12-1, North No. 1), 2 p.m.
Game 3, East Central (30-14, South No. 3) vs. East Mississippi (24-18, North No. 2), 4 p.m.
Game 4, Miss. Gulf Coast (31-8, South No. 1) vs. Northeast (23-14-1, North No. 4), 6 p.m.
Game 5, Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, Noon
Game 6, Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 2 p.m.
Game 7, Championship, Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 5 p.m.