April 16, 2010 9:33:00 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
The West Point High School baseball team has shown in the last week it knows how to respond from a loss.
Thanks to some steady pitching and more consistent play on defense, the Green Wave have rebounded from a disappointing loss to East Webster to win their last four games in a row.
West Point will try to make it five straight at 7 tonight when it plays host to New Hope in a Class 5A, Division 2, District 1 game.
The Trojans are in sole possession of first place in the district at 5-2 with two games remaining. Oxford, Saltillo, and West Point will await the results of possible tiebreakers to sort out which two teams will represent the district in the North State tournament.
West Point coach Buddy Wyers said his pitchers'' ability to limit walks has made it easier on an offense that is scoring nine and 10 runs a game.
"It is very rewarding, not so much for me but it is rewarding for me for them," Wyers said. "I am happy for them because they put in the work and they go out there and play.
"We have been playing pretty well lately. We''re still making the usual mistakes, but we''re putting up runs so the few mistakes we''re making aren''t hurting us like they have in the past."
West Point was one run away from possibly earning a mercy rule victory against East Webster last Thursday. The Green Wave regrouped from that loss and went to Oxford and earned their first district victory. They traveled to Columbus on Saturday to beat West Lowndes, beat Starkville on the road Monday thanks to a "phenomenal" pitching performance from freshman Dalentez Pulliam, and then defeated Saltillo on Tuesday.
Wyers said he and his coaches talked with the pitchers after games with double-digit walks left the team at a disadvantage. He said the pitchers have responded and are cutting down on walks, which he called "very, very deadly," and are doing a better job of trying to make hitters put the ball in play.
As a result, Wyers said the pitchers are commanding the game more confidently and their teammates behind them are playing with more confidence.
"I would hope they have more confidence in themselves," Wyers said. "We have guys who now are thinking they don''t have to do everything themselves. Everyone is not hitting every game, but that''s why we have nine guys. I think they''re playing with a little more confidence based on the mere fact they beat some pretty good teams. I think they''re seeing a little bit that they can play and compete a little bit with whoever they''re playing."
Wyers doesn''t know how the playoff situation will play out, but he said it is critical for the Green Wave to finish the season on a high note. With five games remaining, Wyers hopes the Green Wave will be able to maintain the momentum so they will be able to be even more confident entering the 2011 season.
With only seniors Nick Phyfer and Brandon Ewings, Wyers believes the Green Wave has the potential to learn valuable lessons from the recent stretch.
Next season, West Point figures to return a talented cast that will include Tommy Keys (junior this season), Dalton Davis (sophomore), Ed Cox (junior), Brandon Edwards (sophomore), Freddie Reed (freshman), Damichael Brown (junior), Will Harrell (sophomore), Pulliam, Leroy Calvert (sophomore), and Spenche Hampton (junior).
Wyers said the success the team has had this season is the most the program has had since his first season four years ago. In that year, he said the team won 15 or 16 games with an experienced squad. Since then, though, he said the Green Wave have been building to the point where they can compete with the best teams in the state.
Judging from recent results, it looks like West Point is getting closer to that goal.
"If they will let themselves be coached and continue to work hard and not get complacent with a little bit of success they will be fine," Wyers said. "They have to have that hunger for success. So far we have had it lately. It is very important for them and very satisfying for me for them. It makes me happy to see them succeed because of the work they have put in."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.