May 25, 2013 10:55:59 PM
PEARL -- Prior to his seventh grade year, Taylor Stafford's family decided to move to New Hope.
Stafford wanted a chance to play for one of the state's most dominant programs at New Hope High School, which owned five state titles at the time.
Stafford, originally from Starkville, heard all about the Trojans from travel-ball teammates and wanted to join the program's record books.
Stafford and the Trojans overcame a two-run deficit against Pascagoula High to capture the state championship Saturday afternoon. New Hope moved to the top of the Mississippi High School Activities Association's Class 5A ranks with a 3-2 victory at Trustmark Park. The victory allowed the Trojans to win the state championship series, two games to one.
The title is the Trojans' first since 2003.
"All the tradition and legacy, to put my name in that is amazing," said Stafford, who gave up two runs in seven innings. "I'll tell my kids about this."
The Trojans went 10-2 in the playoffs and fought through a tough series against the Panthers. In all three games, the margin of victory was two runs or fewer.
"This is everyone's dream," said second baseman Parker Earhart. "Even when we were little and in tournament ball, this is what we were working for."
The Trojans (27-9) fell behind 2-0 after a disastrous first inning in which Stafford gave up four hits and two runs. But the kid who'd dreamed of playing for the Trojans locked down the Panthers the rest of the way, giving up three hits and striking out three for the complete-game win.
Stafford, Earhart and Landon Boyd each had an RBI hit in the game. Will Golsan and Wells Davis each went 2-for-3.
"My mind is still spinning," said Earhart.
So was the mind of coach Lee Boyd, who welcomed his second child, Brady, into the world last Friday and watched his brother drive the first Trojans run Saturday.
The former Trojans player knows how much it means to the community to add another trophy to the hall, and he did his best to downplay his role in a dynamite team effort.
"To get back on top is special," Boyd said. "The kids did it, not me. They put in the work in the weight room, they're done everything we asked. They won the state championship, not me.
"I don't know how long it will take to come down from this. We are supposed to start summer ball Tuesday, and I don't know how I'm gonna do it."
The Trojans attacked the postseason with a vengeance after losing three of four to close the regular season and finishing behind Oxford in region play.
New Hope overcame being down a game to Yazoo City and got their backs off the wall following a one-run loss to Pascagoula on Friday.
With just six seniors and just three of those starting, the Trojans performed like the more experienced group Saturday. That distinction should have gone to the Panthers, who fielded 10 seniors. But the Panthers lost their cool, as a coach and center fielder Adam Smith were both ejected for arguing calls.
"When it happened, it fired us up and gave us more confidence," Earhart said. "We knew things were going our way."
Pascagoula pitcher Andrew Crane went 5 1/3 innings, gave up three earned runs and eight hits. He struck out four.
Corley Reynolds went 2 of 3 with a pair of RBIs to pace Pascagoula (22-15).