May 24, 2013 10:02:19 AM
PEARL -- Lee Boyd knows it isn't going to be easy.
If Wednesday is any indication, the New Hope High School baseball team just might need to post a few more crooked numbers to win its first state championship in 10 years.
New Hope (26-8) will try to make it happen at 1:30 p.m. today when it takes on Pascagoula in game two of their best-of-three Mississippi High School Activities Association series at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Senior Landon Boyd, the Trojans' workhorse for the past two seasons, could get the start today as New Hope tries to secure its first state title since 2003.
For Lee Boyd, a former New Hope High player and former assistant coach at Neshoba Central High, a championship would cap a whirlwind year that included plenty of ups and downs and injuries and the birth of his son, Brady Andrew, last Friday.
But Boyd also knows that Pascagoula (21-14), the defending Class 5A state champion, won't go away easily. The Trojans discovered that fact Wednesday when a 9-3 lead in the top of the sixth inning evaporated in the snap of a finger. If not for first baseman Wells Davis being perfectly positioned to snare a line drive with the go-ahead run on third base, New Hope just might be looking at a must-win scenario. As it stands today, New Hope has a one-game lead thanks to an 11-9 victory in the opener and the knowledge that it can come back Saturday (at a time to be determined) and win the title in game three.
"I thought if we scored 11 we would win by five or six runs," Boyd said. "But you have to give their guys credit. Down 9-3 with two outs in the sixth inning,they could have easily laid down, but they put back-to-back-to-back doubles together and made it really close. We were fortunate to win."
That won't make closing things out today any easier. Still, Boyd liked how his team didn't lay down after Pascagoula rallied in the sixth and stole the momentum. Hits by Stafford, Tee Payne, and Rooke Coleman helped send a charge through the throng of New Hope fans and set the stage for Stafford to come in and set Pascagoula down in order in the seventh.
"They were really cranking today," Boyd said of the middle of the order. "We had some huge hits. This field is big, so you're going to score some extra runs that you normally wouldn't score on a regular high school field. Our guys battled, and we're going to have to have that because Pascagoula is good.
Boyd said Wednesday he wasn't sure who would pitch today. Taylor Stafford, who pitched the seventh inning Wednesday, pitched a complete game in game two against Hernando to send New Hope to the title series. Landon Boyd typically followed J.C. Redden in game two of series this season, but the senior right-hander said after the victory against Hernando that he had been resting his arm and wasn't sure he would have been able to go if a game three was needed.
New Hope could come back today with Will Golsan, but the Trojans' defense is better with the junior at shortstop and Stafford in center field. Although Stafford said his arm felt great after Wednesday's game, he likely wouldn't come back today.
With two shots to wrap it up, Boyd hopes the Trojans' bats stay hot and help the team capitalize on the spacious confines of Trustmark Park.
"Pascagoula lost game one last year to Hernando," Boyd said. "I don't know what they have left pitching, but they are not going to lay down. We have lost game one (and come back to win against Yazoo City). Hernando lost game one twice. That is why you play a series and not one game. We are not going to relax and say, 'Hey, we got this.' We know Pascagoula is going to battle and we're going to be fighting and ready to go."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.