February 21, 2010 12:35:00 AM
The six teams that participated Saturday in the jamboree at Columbus High School couldn''t have asked for better weather to open their seasons.
The spring-like temperatures only 13 days into the official start of Mississippi High School Activities Association baseball season provided a welcome setting for teams eager to get their seasons started later this week.
And while some teams were ahead of others, the consensus is that everyone will get better with more time on the field.
Columbus closed the day''s festivities with a 2-0 victory against New Albany and a 3-2 victory against West Point.
"I thought we did some really good things," Columbus coach Jeffrey Cook said. "We played very good defensively, we hustled, and what I am most proud of every play and every guy was moving to the position they were supposed to be in.
"I thought our pitching did well, but we did not do as good a job swinging the bat. One thing we did was we played small ball really well. We bunted successfully three times, all for hits, especially in the second game, when we scored all of our runs stealing bases and moving guys over."
Nick Durrah hit a two-run home run in game one for the Falcons. Tyji Hawkins and Stefan Hairston pitched in the second game, while Hairston and Avery Ford had RBIs for the Falcons, who scored their third run on a passed ball.
All of the six teams involved played two four-inning games. Pitchers were allowed to throw only two innings apiece.
Heritage Academy also was invited to play in the event, but the Patriots had to back out of the event due to the fact that Saturday was a "no-play date" according to the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools. The MAIS allowed Heritage Academy to play only one game Saturday, but Heritage Academy coach Steve Hancock opted to pull out because the situation would have left one of his opponents in the jamboree with only one game.
Heritage Academy could have used the time on the field. The Patriots will play host to Winston Academy in a varsity doubleheader at 5 p.m. Monday.
The teams that were at Columbus High took full advantage of the wonderful weather. New Hope and first-year coach Lee Boyd opened the morning with a 3-0 victory against Hamilton.
Jake Smith had a double and scored a pair of runs, and Jake Upton had a double and two RBIs. The Trojans had only two hits, but their pitchers struck out eight, allowed no hits, and walked two.
The Trojans rallied in the bottom of the fourth to score runs in a 7-3 victory against New Albany in the afternoon. All teams played four full innings regardless of which team was home or away. Brent Younger, Philip Tice, Upton, Seth Stillman (triple), and Dillon Hawkins had RBIs in the final inning.
"The pitching was phenomenal," Boyd said. "We had one bad inning pitching. I think one of the runs was earned. We have to do a better job of putting the ball in play. We had a lot of guys on third base with less than two outs. We have to be able to get those guys in if we are going to compete."
Hamilton regrouped from its first game to beat Caledonia 5-2. The Lions, who had seven hits, ended the game with a 5-4-3 double play.
Cole Johnson and Austin Welch had RBI doubles, and Graham Pritchett had an RBI groundout to get things started for Hamilton.
Coach Lewis Earnest said his team has been outside only three times since Feb. 8, the first day teams officially could start practice. He said it''s natural that the Lions'' hitting is where it is, but he also credited New Hope for its effective pitching.
"We didn''t swing the bat at all," Earnest said. "That is only the second time we have seen live pitching. They threw well, too, but we have to get a lot better hitting."
In game two, Earnest said Hamilton regrouped and had better at-bats.
"That might have contributed to the fact that we had seen a few pitches in the first game," Earnest said. "We have to do a lot of work on hitting. I am a little happier after the second game."
Chase Reeves and Kevin McCartney also had RBIs for Hamilton.
Earnest also liked what he saw from his pitchers in the limited action. He said the team arrived at Columbus High a little late, which prevented Reeves from having enough time to get loose. As a result, Earnest said Reeves wasn''t able to get his velocity up until the second inning. He praised the pitching of Dylan Earnest, who started the second game.
Coach Earnest pulled Austin Earnest after one inning because he said he had a sore arm.
Caledonia coach Randy Finch, who took over the program only weeks ago after former coach Sam Adams resigned to take a job in Louisiana to be with his family, said the Confederates will be young this season. He said he was pleased with what he saw from his team, which will have four seniors and juniors.
"We have still got to work on the little things and be more disciplined at the plate," Finch said. "We had seven strikeouts in a four-inning game."
One of the "little things" the Confederates missed was a tag up from third base on a flyball to center field. The next runner, though, freshman made up for it, though, by scoring from second base on an infield single by Cody Allsup. Finch said the Confederates have to be aggressive on the bases, which he said will be a key with only four seniors and three juniors.
West Point coach Buddy Wyers was equally pleased with what he saw from his players. The Green Wave built a 9-0 lead against Caledonia and then survived seven consecutive walks and held on for a 9-6 victory.
"I was really pleased offensively," Wyers said. "I was pleased defensively, and we hadn''t had a whole lot of time on the field. We missed a few signs, and that bothers me some.
"If you walk batters, someone usually hits a double in the gap. I also tried to make them understand that taking nothing away Caledonia, but they are not the caliber of teams in our division. If you do that when we start division play, you are going to go home after five innings."
Tommy Keys, Brandon Ewings, Freddie Reed, and DaMichael Brown (three-run double) helped West Point build the lead. Brandon Edwards also had a triple for West Point, and Brown made a fine diving catch in right field.
Wyers said his team''s ability to work at an on-campus indoor facility has helped them better prepare for this season. Last year, Wyers said the Green Wave were forced to used the gym when their home field was unplayable due to poor conditions.
n In other action, Starkville lost to East Webster 6-5 and defeated Louisville 6-3. Louisville beat East Webster 6-2.
Like the games played at Columbus, the ones at Starkville High were four innings.
Starkville High coach Danny Carlisle went with two starting lineups on the day, and came away much more pleased with the performance of his second group, which was made up of younger players.
"They gave tremendous effort," Carlisle said. "They acted like they wanted to be there."
Carlisle said he was disappointed in the effort of the players who played in game one. He said nothing seemed to click for the Yellow Jackets, who were playing outside for just the third time this season.
"In the first game we left too many runners on base, we took too many called strikes, and we didn''t pitch well," said Carlisle, whose team allowed six unearned runs in game one. "We had a couple of passed balls for runs and we didn''t play well. We weren''t mentally sharp and it led to some physical mistakes and it led to us getting our tail beat."
Carlisle said Starkville struck out nine times in the first game and 16 or 17 times in both games.
Starkville will kick off its regular season Friday with a tournament that will include Pearl, Greenville, and New Hope. The tournament times will be set later in the week.
"Overall I thought the day was a huge success," Cook said. "I want to say thank you to our booster club for working all day."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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