June 26, 2010 11:32:00 PM
It may be summer ball, but Buddy Wyers is adamant West Point''s progression to today''s elite eight of the Dizzy Dean World Series will pay off in the spring.
West Point, which improved to 10-14, will play at 4 p.m. today at Columbus High School''s Sam Fletcher Field after topping Columbus 4-2 and Tupelo 19-2 on Friday.
Despite a 12-2 loss to Neshoba Central on Saturday, West Point won its pool on a rain-soaked day that saw the site moved from West Point to Heritage Academy.
Don''t think Wyers won''t use those results as motivation for building the Green Wave program.
"You get to the tournament on Sunday and you know it''s going to be the best from each site," Wyers said. "That''s big for us, though we knew Friday''s wins meant a lot to us advancing. We''re all about improving our mindset and I know it can be difficult when you haven''t had a lot of success."
The loss to Neshoba Central was discouraging, though the Green Wave used four pitchers, Wyers said. The West Point coach said some of the unfamiliar faces on the mound might have adversely affected his team''s motivation.
Wyers was keen to save arms for today''s slate of games, which may have been perceived by the players as not playing to win.
"Sometimes, I think the kids get the wrong interpretation of our thoughts," Wyers said. "I think that''s why there were a few moments where we didn''t make a play on a ball or had a base running mistake. Keeping good focus on handling adversity is another part of us improving. You can fail more times than succeed and still be a decent player. They''ve got to learn to accept a bit of failure."
While Wyers might seem a bit critical after his team advanced in the tournament, he made it clear this summer''s work has made the team better.
He can see the difference on the bench as players are starting to analyze the game and have banter between each other after each play. That''s another step in contending in Class 5A, Region 2 against the likes of New Hope, Oxford and Saltillo.
The Green Wave were without the services of starting first baseman Tommy Keys, who was away participating in the State Games of Mississippi in Meridian.
Sophomore Bradley Ewings started the game and gave up four runs in one inning. Wyers believes that initial jolt of misfortune and adversity sent his players into a dive. He''s seen it happen in the past and has stressed to his players the importance of responding with positive results.
"Mentally handling what goes on is so important," Wyers said. "Whether it''s the first or the seventh, if you give up five runs your mindset has to be the same. If it affects you in a positive or negative way it''s going to impact what you do from there on out.
"Yesterday, we come out and score five or six in the first inning and their mindset is different. It''s not always going to be that way, and today''s game is a good example of that. They scored four in the first on one hit."
Leadoff hitter and center-fielder Ed Cox, who batted .340 and had a flawless fielding percentage in the spring, went 0-for-2 with a steal against Neshoba Central. Along with Keys, Dalton Davis, Will Harrell and Leroy Calvert, Cox looks to lead next year''s senior class to a district title. He''s been a fixture in Wyers'' program since Wyers took over and he''s seen a steady improvement in team morale.
"Us wanting it is a big deal," Cox said. "We work hard in the weight room and in this hot sun. This year, we''ve been coming to practice and it''s been a surprise to me. It see that these boys want it.
"Advancing in the tournament, it''s our first time going. It''s a step forward in our lives, talent and ability."
1. Woods officially takes over at Starkville High HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. Cohen, Bulldogs look for answers after 2015 season COLLEGE SPORTS