March 10, 2010 11:21:00 AM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
Thankfully, Lee Boyd didn''t have to choose.
Too many times, teams deliver one part of the equation, leaving coaches to hope for a player or another element to provide a spark.
Dillon Hawkins made sure Boyd knew right away what he was getting.
The junior right-hander threw a five-inning no-hitter and received the backing of an 11-hit attack Tuesday night to lead the New Hope High School baseball team to a 13-0 victory against Columbus. The game was stopped after five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.
"When you put (the hitting and the pitching) together like that you''re looking for a great game," Boyd said. "Dillon threw the ball well."
Hawkins was in complete control, striking out nine by mixing a fastball and a curveball, or a curveball and a fastball, to limit the Falcons (3-4) to three baserunners (two by walk, one on a hit by pitch).
"I felt pretty good," Hawkins said. "I was throwing strikes."
Hawkins said he didn''t know he was throwing a perfect game until the fourth inning. He walked Stefan Hairston with one out in the fourth, but retired the next two hitters. In the fifth, he walked Josh Tentoni and hit Aurby Burdine before he erased Avery Ford on a popup and struck out the final two batters.
Hawkins was as sharp in the first as he was in the fifth. He recorded the second out of the fifth by striking out Dylan Patel on a biting curveball that stayed low in the strike zone.
Hawkins said he lost his focus in the final inning, but felt comfortable and strong to help New Hope improve to 4-1.
"I feel great," Hawkins said. "We have a big pitching staff (with Jake Smith, Jake Upton, Gabe Franks, and Blake Roberts, to name a few of the options)."
Hawkins said his goal is to help the Trojans take the next step. Last season, New Hope lost in game three to eventual Class 4A state champion West Lauderdale.
This season, New Hope will compete for a Class 5A title. Hawkins hopes he will be a key ingredient in what he hopes will be a run to another championship.
"I want to step up and be the person I can be," Hawkins said. "I want to work on hitting spots and getting my velocity up. I am still a long way to getting where I want to be with my velocity, but I am throwing good."
Boyd complimented Hawkins by saying he sometimes "pitches backward" in the count, meaning he has confidence to throw his curveball at any time. Hawkins had that confidence Tuesday because he kept his breaking pitch in the zone. He also spotted his fastball to keep Columbus off balance.
"When you have a kid, especially at the high school level, who can mix those two pitches in any count and in any situation, if he continues to do that, he is going to be effective," Boyd said.
Boyd likes how his team has rebounded from a season-opening loss to Amory in which it struck out 13 times. He said the Trojans haven''t changed their technical approach at the plate, but he said they are more aggressive, especially with two strikes. The result is a team that is clicking ahead of what should be a test against Class 6A Gulfport on Saturday in New Hope''s tournament at Trojan Field.
"I hope we keep it up," Boyd said. "We have a big test this weekend. That will kind of give us a measuring stick of where we are."
Brent Younger had three hits (double, triple) and three RBIs to pace the Trojans. Davis Lee (two RBIs), Jared Shelton, and Franks each had two hits, and Philip Tice had a two-run double in a seven-run third inning that broke the game open.
Columbus was coming off a 1-2 showing at the Pontotoc High tournament. The Falcons beat Noxubee County but lost to Caledonia (4-3) and Senatobia (9-7). In both games, coach Jeffrey Cook said his players tried "to turn it on" too late" and came up short. He said he was disappointed Columbus didn''t produce a better effort Tuesday night.
"We didn''t have any life at all, but Dillon Hawkins had a lot to do with that," Cook said. "He threw well. His curveball was working really well. He kept it low. We have to do a better job."
Cook said playing with enthusiasm will be crucial for the Falcons. He said there''s no reason his team shouldn''t be 6-1, but he said some guys will have "to step up and make plays." After the game, he challenged his players to take a page from New Hope.
"I was impressed with New Hope guys and how they were talking as teammates and encouraging each other," Cook said. "That''s something we have to do. We kind of get in a mind-set or a lull at the wrong time in games. We can''t do that. We''re not that good yet to where we can just play, step up, and beat anybody. We have to come out here every day and be ready to play."
Cook promised the Falcons would return Thursday ready to play against West Point (site to be determined) before they traveled to Florida for their annual trip. He said he players, especially the seniors, need to realize there isn''t much time left for the Falcons to deliver that kind of effort to help them realize their potential.
"The Florida trip is a team-bonding experience, and last year we went down there and played well and came back pretty well," Cook said. "I hope we will use it to learn to play better together and get ready for Starkville when we come back. It is now or never. It starts in two weeks."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.