May 3, 2009
The New Hope High School baseball team''s quest to sweep its third consecutive series in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A playoffs was put on hold Saturday.
New Hope was scheduled to play at Saltillo in the second game of the best-of-three third-round series, but the game was postponed due to rain.
The game has been rescheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at Saltillo.
The Trojans are seeking another sweep after beating Hernando and Pontotoc in the first two rounds.
New Hope took a 1-0 lead in the series Friday with an 8-3 victory at Trojan Field.
New Hope (23-9) is a win away from clinching a berth in the Class 4A North State championship series for the eighth time during coach Stacy Hester''s 18-year tenure. The Trojans have played in the North State series in 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003, and 2005 since Hester became the coach.
New Hope is in contention for its fourth state championship with Hester as coach, and its sixth overall.
"We talk about winning the state championship," Hester said Friday. "The kids want to get that tradition back here at New Hope. I think the tradition keeps motivating them. They want to go down as a state championship team."
On Friday, Hester rejoined the team after not being allowed to coach in the Pontotoc series.
"It was fun," Hester said of being back. "The kids knew I''ve been here with them. Even during the suspension I was here with them. The kids knew what was going on. The kids deserve credit for seeing through things."
Hester was restrained from coaching his team by Lowndes County Schools Superintendent Mike Halford after being involved in an incident in game two of the series against Hernando. Specifics of the incident were never revealed.
"It was good to have him back," said New Hope senior first baseman Hilton Gibson. "We responded well when he was gone, and we responded just the same when he was here."
Gibson continued to swing a hot bat in the playoffs Friday. He doubled home two runs in the second to give the Trojans a 5-1 lead and singled in the sixth to give him a hit in every game in the playoffs.
After struggling at times during the regular season, Gibson is batting .529 (9 for 17) with two home runs (one grand slam), two doubles, and 10 RBIs in the playoffs.
"I guess you could say I was going through a slump by trying to do too much (during the regular season)," Gibson said. "Now that we''ve started the playoffs, I''ve got my head on right. I know now no one person can carry us in the playoffs. It''s got to be everyone of us."
Jake Upton had a two-run single in the first, Philip Tice had an RBI groundout in the first and an RBI single in the sixth, Josh Ferguson and Will McReynolds had singles, and T.J. Upton added an RBI groundout in the sixth.
New Hope scored three runs in the first after falling behind 1-0, two in the second courtesy of two errors, one in the third, and two in the sixth.
New Hope capitalized on four errors.
"It was nice the way the kids responded every time," Hester said. "They scored one and then we scored three. That''s been the storyline in the playoffs. They keep putting pressure on the other team. That''s been a trademark in the playoffs."
Dillon Hawkins pitched a complete game to earn the victory. He gave up a run in the first and two in the fifth, including a solo home run to Hunter Hill.
Hawkins allowed six hits, struck out three, walked two, and hit a batter.