May 23, 2013 3:13:57 PM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
Landon Boyd has earned a reputation for being a big-game pitcher.
In his final game at Trojan Field, Boyd proved he can do damage at the plate, too.
With Taylor Stafford taking care of the pitching duties, Boyd's two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning helped send the New Hope High School baseball team to a 5-0 victory against Hernando in game two of their Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A North State title series.
"I normally try to swing at the first fastball," Boyd said. "I have hit about six balls off the wall this year. You just think it is about time one of them goes out. There was no better time in front of my home crowd in the North Half championship and we end up winning the game.
New Hope (25-8) will take on defending state champion Pascagoula (22-13) in game one of the Class 5A State title series at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
After Stafford worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the first inning, New Hope seized the momentum in the bottom half. Will Golsan singled to left field off starting pitcher Trey Freeman. Boyd jumped on the first pitch he saw and smacked his first home run at Trojan Field over the left-center field fence.
"You're just looking for something fat," Boyd said. "If you see your pitch -- that pitch was belt high right down the middle, right where I love it -- so I swung the bat and it ends up going out for a big home run."
Boyd said he played a role in the decision to start Stafford in game two. He said he isn't sure if he would have pitched game three, which likely would have been today in Hernando, but he had all the confidence in Stafford to make sure New Hope didn't need to extend the series.
"I see leadership right there," Boyd said of Stafford's effort. "That just shows quality leadership. We have faith in each other all throughout the field. There is not a better feeling than this."
Boyd's confidence proved to be true as Rooke Coleman singled to score pinch runner Josh Stillman to make it 3-0 in the first. Coleman also doubled in the fifth and was one of two runners to score on Payton Lane's single that accounted for the scoring.
New Hope coach Lee Boyd, who is Landon's brother, provided a hearty hand slap down low as Landon rounded third base to punctuate the blast. The home run made the victory even sweeter for Lee Boyd, whose wife, Allison, gave birth to their second child, Brady Andrew Boyd, at 7:10 a.m. Friday.
"I think (Freeman) missed a little in," Boyd said. "Landon is not a home run hitter. He hit one last year, and this was his first home run at Trojan Field in his last game. He has that capability. He hits them out in batting practice a lot, but he gets in trouble when he pulls so many pitches. We try to get him to stay back and to see the ball deep. He missed a little in and if his timing is right middle in, he has that capability. I was tickled to see that go over the fence and give us a little cushion and kind of take some nerves out of us and help us relax and play."
Hernando coach David Lara said New Hope saw Freeman, who had to leave the game after the first inning and didn't return. The right-hander, who hit a home run in game one Thursday night, also was Hernando's cleanup hitter. Freeman appeared to foul a ball off his leg in the top of the first. He stretched out his leg and needed a few moments to get back into the batter's box before he ultimately popped out to first baseman Wells Davis for the first out.
"He threw a curve and he laid it in there," Lara said. "Our guy is not the type of pitcher who can just lay one in there. He has a lot of movement on every pitch, but when he leaves it over the plate -- just a hit-me pitch -- it is going to get hit. We saw what happens when he does that. They just saw him. They saw him real well. We knew they swung the bats pretty good. I thought we did, too, so I thought we matched up well enough, but it was just one of those nights. We got the guys on but we couldn't get them in."
Landon Boyd helped make sure New Hope did just that.
"I can't say enough about this team. We all are so close. We hang out on the weekends and there is no better feeling than winning the North State in front of the home crowd and going to the state championship."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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