March 2, 2013 10:32:47 PM
BY DAVID MILLER
Special to the Dispatch
Snow, wind, rain - Bruce Branch wants his Heritage Academy baseball time to be ready to roll in any weather.
The Patriots coach wasn't surprised following his team's 13-0 win over West Lowndes High School on Saturday, given the crisp practice they'd had in similar chilly, windy conditions the night before.
Sharpening the focus of a team that opens Class AAA conference play against Magnolia Heights on Monday is vital due to weather limiting teams across the area.
Aside from one error, the Patriots (3-1) played mistake free and mounted more than 10 hits, including a three-RBI game from Matt Thatcher.
"Mentally, we came ready to play," Branch said. "It was good to see our guys keep that focus throughout the game. We needed a game like this heading into our conference opener; Mag. Heights is a very good team, fundamentally."
Parker Dunaway, in his first outing of the season, registered seven strikeouts in three innings and recorded the win. Thirty-five of Dunaway's 45 pitches were strikeouts.
"Parker Dunaway came in and consistently threw strikes for us," Branch said. "That's what we expect out of him. He's a gamer.
"He was just trying to work it over the plate and get a workout," Branch added. "We had him on a pitch county, and we just wanted him to fill up the zone."
Following a game in which the Panthers committed three errors - all of which surrendered a run - gave up a string of infield hits and mustered just one hit of their own, coach Todd Stanley lamented his team's sluggishness.
"We played a great game defensively last night, but I think we were out here worried about it being cold," Stanley said. "But we're going to get it right. There's a lot we're gonna have to get cleaned up."
Stanley praised reliever Eric Crawford for his stellar pitching after registering a pair of strikeouts. The Panthers (1-1) open district play against French Camp on Tuesday.
The Patriots have won three in a row following an opening-day loss to rival Starkville Academy. Saturday's game marked a season-high for runs.
Dunaway was 3-for-4, and seven Patriots drove in at least one run.
"That was positive," Branch said. "But that, along with her fielding has got to continue to come along."
3. Cohen brings home conference coach of year honors COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Woodman leads Ole Miss; Alabama eliminates Kentucky COLLEGE SPORTS
5. West Point's Murphy commits to MSU HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS