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New Hope clinches division title

 

David Miller

 

New Hope High School baseball coach Lee Boyd was sure to make note Tuesday of his team''s 13-1 record since the end of March after the Trojans beat Saltillo 13-3 to clinch the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A, Division 2, District 1 championship. 

 

Boyd wants everyone to remember there''s a difference between the way the Trojans are playing now and prior to its hot streak. 

 

Offensively, the team is more complete and producing clutch hits. 

 

It was just a month ago that New Hope was humbled by scoring just two runs in two losses at the Saltillo Tournament. That week the Trojans lost three of five games and scored just eight runs. 

 

"A lot of people forget that," Boyd said. 

 

New Hope''s only blemish during its current streak was to Saltillo after losing a 6-0 lead and that loss was on the mids of the Trojans and their fans in the rematch Tuesday with the division title at stake. 

 

The Trojans pounded out 12 hits and used aggressive base running in support of pitcher Blake Roberts'' complete game. Brent Younger had four RBIs and Davis Lee, Gabe Franks and Seth Stillman had multiple hits to highlight a dominant game at the plate.  

 

Younger was 2 for 3 with a bases-clearing double that turned into an error-assisted four-run play in the fifth inning to give New Hope an 8-3 lead.  

 

Younger was blunt in describing his team''s goal in the run-ruled win that was called in the sixth. 

 

"Before the game, we talked about wanting to end it in five -- leave no doubt," Younger said. "We just tried to put up as much as we could and never slow down." 

 

New Hope (20-5, 6-2 district) hosts Neshoba Central a week from Thursday in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.  

 

Boyd watched his team turn a 3-3 game into a rout, chasing Saltillo starter Cole Morse after three innings.  

 

Morse took the loss, giving up six runs on eight hits. He struck out five, but wasn''t helped by a a crucial error on a double play ball that gave New Hope a two-run lead.  

 

An error at third scored another run in the bottom of the fourth and set up back-to-back RBI hits from Gabe Franks and Dusty Dyson to make it a five-run game.  

 

The two-out spurt from the duo came an inning before Younger''s pseudo grand slam.  

 

"I don''t know if anything was all too different (from the April 6 loss)," Boyd said, "But they made a couple of key errors in some situations and we come out with timely hits. That''s how you put teams away." 

 

Dillion Paine''s laboring body language on the mound in the later stages of the game spelled how overwhelmed the Tigers were after five successful New Hope steals and self-inflicted mistakes. 

 

"I hope we keep taking advantage of mistakes and playing well like we''ve been doing," Boyd said. That''s a solid team, but we''re playing the best ball we''ve played all year." 

 

Perhaps lost in the spotlight of the offensive spree was Blake Roberts'' complete game, which saw the senior bounce back from a shaky, two-run first inning to record outs on nine of his next 12 at-bats.  

 

Drew Chisholm''s long ball on a two-out curve ball was the last blemish on Roberts'' stat line, which included three runs on seven hits in six innings of work. Roberts struck out seven and walked six. 

 

Stillman clinched the game with a walk-off sacrifice fly in the sixth, ending the game as the fifth Trojan to record at least one RBI.  

 

The Trojans will play at West Lauderdale on Friday and will host Columbus on Saturday ahead of the playoff opener. 

 

 

 

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