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Offense out of reach for Hamilton


Adam Minichino



PEARL -- The approach is the same regardless of how many are out. 


It just so happens that two was the magic number Wednesday for the Richton High School baseball team. 


As a result, the Rebels will have to clear another space in their trophy case. 


Matthew Rylee singled in two runs, JaCoby Jones added a two-run double, and Kameron Mills allowed five hits in six innings to lead Richton to a 5-0 victory against Hamilton in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A State title series at Trustmark Park. 


The victory helped Richton (31-3) sweep the series 2-0 and win its third state title in four seasons. The Rebels also defeated the Lions in three games in 2008 for the championship. 


"You take an unselfish cut," Richton coach Brandon Davis. "You really take a cut for the team. You shorten up and you put the barrel on it and good things happen because you''re doing things right. If you try to hit a three-run bomb with nobody on base and take a big hack, that is not right. What is right is to put the ball in play. That is our primary goal of the Richton High baseball team." 


Richton, which hit two home runs in an 8-4 victory in game one Tuesday night, eschewed the long ball for a 12-hit attack that featured eight singles and four doubles.  


Each one of the run-producing hits came against starter and loser Chase Reeves (2-2). The junior left-hander allowed only five hits to the Rebels'' top five hitters. He also battled out of tough situations early in innings to give him chances to escape trouble. 


"I felt good. I was just trying to throw strikes and to give us a chance to win," Reeves said. "I hate we couldn''t score any runs, but I feel we did a pretty good job. We played better defensively today, but we just didn''t hit the ball." 


The bottom of Richton''s lineup made Reeves pay. No. 8 hitter Kane Edwards had a two-out double in the top of the second. He moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Rylee. 


In the fifth, Reeves struck out cleanup hitter Myles Mayo with one out and No. 2 hitter Blaze Napier, who reached base after being hit by a pitch, on second. But Rakeem Sims lined a 2-1 pitch into left field to make it 2-0. 


A fielder''s choice groundball by Tilur Smith and a walk to Napier in the sixth set the stage for Jones'' two-run double with two outs. 


"He did a great job," Hamilton coach Lewis Earnest said of Reeves. "He didn''t want to come out (with two out in the top of the seventh), but he was over 100 pitches and there was no sense in leaving him out there. He wanted to finish it, and that just shows his heart. He was outstanding. He held a good hitting team at bay for a long time, and that''s all you can ask of him." 


Jones, a right-handed hitting shortstop/pitcher who is expected to be selected in the top 10 rounds of the Major League Baseball draft next month, didn''t try to do too much with the pitch on the outer half of the plate and went with the pitch to right-center field. 


"They had two-out basehits. That is what you have got to have to win games," Reeves said. 


Reeves nearly worked out of trouble again in the seventh. Sims was called out at home for interference after he failed to slide. After runners were sent back to second and first on the fielder''s choice, Reeves (three walks, 10 strikeouts) fanned Edwards for the second out. Rylee, who hit his first home run of the season Tuesday night against Dylan Earnest, singled to left field to give the Rebels another insurance run. 


"(Opponents) didn''t realize the bottom of our order is a scrappy bunch of kids that will not be denied," Davis said. "They busted their tails and did what is right. The Dylon Stringers, the Kane Edwards, and the Matthew Rylees did what they had to do and stayed with the approach." 


Jones didn''t need the additional support. The right-hander hit 89 mph on the radar gun and then allowed a single to Nathan Cockerham in the bottom of the seventh. Jones then struck out two of the next three hitters to help the Rebels secure the title. 


Hamilton (22-6) had runners in scoring position in four innings. Unfortunately, the Lions were 0-for-5 in those situations. The final three at-bats came with two outs. 


"They were able to get the follow-up hit. We didn''t get the follow-up hit when we needed it," Earnest said. "They just did what they had to do to win it and we didn''t." 


Reeves said the two games against Richton were similar to the North Half State title series against Bruce. The players said Hamilton also struggled in that series to get rallies started with less than two outs. The Lions won game one of the series before dropping game two 10-0 and game three 6-5. 


But the MHSAA forced Bruce to forfeit game three after it was reported pitcher Caleb Hanley had pitched 17 2/3 innings in a week. The MHSAA handbook states a pitcher is allowed to pitch 17 innings in a week. 


Bruce High appealed the ruling of MHSAA Executive Director Dr. Ennis Proctor, which was upheld by the MHSAA Executive Committee and by a chancery court judge in Hinds County. 


The game marked the end of the Hamilton High careers of Dylan Earnest, Devin Hopper, Cockerham, Cole Johnson, and Kevin McCartney. 


Coach Earnest praised the efforts of his players for helping the program finish runner-up for the third time in the past four seasons. In 2007, Hamilton lost in the Class 1A State title series to Gulfport St. John. 


Losing Dylan Earnest, who will play baseball at Itawamba Community College in the fall, will hurt, but Reeves, Austin Earnest, and Brandon Fikes figure to return to give the Lions three starting pitchers with experience in 2011. 


The key will be how the team replaces the leadership of five players who saw significant playing time this season. 


Reeves and catcher Parker Rye believe the Lions will be OK. 


"We just have to have more pitchers step up next year," Rye said. "I think we''re going to be really good next year. Some people might think we''re going to have a down year because we''re losing some pitching, but we''re going to have a pretty good year." 


Said Reeves, "We''re going to have pitching next year. It is going to come down to hitting. We can pitch, but we have to play better defense and we have to hit the ball and score some runs."


Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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