April 22, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Hilton Gibson and the New Hope High School baseball team haven''t had a perfect season.
Routine plays haven''t been made, pitchers have missed locations, and hitters haven''t delivered in clutch situations.
In many ways, New Hope''s season hasn''t been any different than countless other teams across the nation.
But what the Trojans haven''t done has made them stronger.
That''s the mentality Gibson, Josh Ferguson, and the rest of the Trojans'' senior class has taken in hopes of helping the team make the most of its second season.
The first step proved to be successful.
New Hope swept Hernando in its best-of-three Class 4A first-round playoff series. The victories pushed New Hope to 20-9 on the season and into a second-round matchup against Pontotoc that begins at 6 p.m. Thursday.
The Trojans will play host to game two at 6 p.m. Friday.
Game three, if necessary, will be at 6 p.m. Saturday in Pontotoc.
If you follow the chat on Internet forums, Pontotoc is one of the favorites in Class 4A, while New Hope is considered a "sleeper."
No one denies New Hope''s potential, but, for some reason, the Trojans have been unable to put everything together.
Ferguson and Gibson hope the Trojans can continue to build on the lessons the team learned in the regular season and play for the tradition and the name on their jerseys.
One blow might have struck a chord with the New Hope teams of the past. Gibson''s towering solo home run in the first inning of game one cleared the field house behind the left-field fence.
Ferguson said the blast must have went 650 feet and provided a spark.
"Everybody got up and came through with some big hits (after the home run) to help us win the game," Ferguson said.
Gibson acknowledged the home run was like a fresh start for him. He admitted he has made mistakes and hasn''t come through like he should have in the regular season, but that season has ended and it is time to step up in a new one.
"If it would have been anybody else who hit the home run it still would have set the table for the rest of the game," Gibson said. "Big hits in big situations always set the table for the game."
It has been difficult at times this season for the Trojans to live up to the program''s tradition. This year''s team has carried a picture of the 2003 team celebrating its state title with it to games this season.
But Gibson said the 2009 team hasn''t tried to be the 1996 team that went 43-0. Instead, it has worked through the highs and lows this season and continues to believe it has what it takes to win a state title.
"The season started out slow, but we have built on everything," Gibson said. "We''re not going to live in the past. We''re going to come out and do our job to be the best and to be New Hope again and to bring back the tradition. It is the best thing we can do, and I believe we have a real good shot at winning this year."
Ferguson was a standout on New Hope''s football team last year. He played an integral role in helping coach Michael Bradley''s program finish 8-5 in 2008, advance to the third round of the North Half state playoffs, and help it build toward winning its first state title.
As a leadoff hitter on the baseball team, his goal is to help the Trojans earn another championship. He believes the Trojans will make their mark because they are playing as a team, they are communicating together, and are playing smart baseball.
"Everyone said Hernando was going to beat us in three games and we went in there and shut them down in two games," Gibson said. "I believe we are going to make our mark."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.