Lewis Earnest and Jason Cobb feel their teams are ready to make postseason runs. Those journeys will start a day earlier than expected when the Hamilton High School baseball and fast-pitch softball teams begin play today in the opening rounds of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A playoffs. The Hamilton baseball team (16-3) will play host to Broad Street in a doubleheader at 4 p.m., while the softball team (15-8) will play at 6 tonight at East Union.
South Lamar High School baseball coach Lane Wright has seen his team peak at the right time of the season. South Lamar is just 11-17, but has advanced to the third round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class A playoffs by sweeping the first two rounds.
STARKVILLE — This time last year, Jamie Mitchell was leading one of the top football programs in the state. But much like he’s shown with resurrection projects at South Tippah, Olive Branch and Itawamba Agricultural, diving into a new situation yields results. He expects the same at Starkville High School— his latest project and coveted job from 10 years ago.
CARROLLTON, Ala. — The Pickens Academy baseball team put itself in a situation without many options early in the season. Three region losses left the Pirates in danger of missing out on their first goal of the season: Making the playoffs. “The losses rallied the team and we knew we had to win out,” junior pitcher Chase Davidson said. Faced with the prospect of seeing their season end too soon, the Pirates responded to help secure their postseason chances.
When Brent Hallmark struggled with his control as a freshman pitcher at Delta State, he contemplated hanging up his cleats. But Hallmark didn’t give up that easily and has persevered to become a solid late-inning reliever his sophomore season at Delta State. Hallmark, a 2007 graduate of New Hope High School, has found a remedy for his control issues by going to a sidearm delivery as recommended by former Delta State and major league pitcher Matt Miller, and he’s thriving out of the bullpen.
STARKVILLE — Mondays have been newsworthy days for Mississippi State athletics this year. Greg Byrne’s announcement of his decision to leave for the University of Arizona came on a Monday, as did men’s basketball coach Rick Stansbury’s selection to turn down Clemson’s offer to become its new coach remain at MSU. This week, that theme was continued when MSU guards Dee Bost and Ravern Johnson opted enter the NBA draft.
There are plenty of questions surrounding the status of Rashad Perkins. But Chipola College (Fla.) men’s basketball coach Jake Headrick is certain about one thing. The first-year Chipola coach confirmed Monday night that Perkins, The Commercial Dispatch Large Schools Boys Basketball Player of the Year, Mississippi’s Mr. Basketball, and Southern Mississippi signee will play for the junior college for the 2010-11 school year.
CALEDONIA — Jessica Comer is gearing up for a challenge. The Caledonia High School junior plans to be ready.
STARKVILLE –– Anthony Dixon waited longer than he wanted to on the final day of the NFL draft, but the crossed fingers, prayers and nervous energy turned to joy in the sixth round. A life-long San Francisco 49ers fan, Dixon grew up hoping to grace the same field as his favorite player, Jerry Rice, once did. Saturday, San Francisco drafted the Mississippi State record-setter with the 173rd overall pick, bolstering a backfield that already has Pro Bowler Frank Gore and former Alabama running back Glen Coffee.
STARKVILLE — Mississippi State announced Friday senior associate athletic director Duncan McKenzie will serve as interim athletic director while the school continues its search for a long term replacement for Greg Byrne. McKenzie also serves as the athletic department’s chief financial officer. He is a former football letterman, starring for MSU as a tight end from 1974-78. He played in the Sun Bowl his freshman season.
HAMILTON — Good athletes come by their talent naturally and, rightfully so, are remembered for their extraordinary athletic skills. Unfortunately, because some have been blessed with an abundance of athletic ability and little else, they never learn that becoming an exceptional athlete takes more than having fantastic skills. So what distinguishes a good athlete from a great one?
KOSCIUSKO — The Caledonia High School girls track and field team won the Class 4A, Division 4, District 4 title Thursday at Kosciusko High School. Caledonia scored 164 points to beat Noxubee County (second, 118 points) and Amory (third, 113). Louisville was fourth with 42 points. Caledonia’s Jessica Comer won individual titles in the 800 (2 minutes, 29 seconds), 1,600 (5:41), and 3,200 meters (12:31). She also teamed with Brooke Lester, Isis Perkins, and Jelisha Hackman to win the 4x400-meter relay with a time of 4:31.
Shockwave Aquatics swim coach Robert Gonzalez couldn’t have asked for much more. After his swimmers delivered 83 to 84 percent best times at the Mississippi Swimming, Inc. Short Course State Championships in February, Gonzalez wasn’t sure what would come next. But with the start of the summer season quickly approaching, Gonzalez believes his team’s runner-up performance to the Mississippi Makos will carry over. He also hopes his team’s efforts, which included three state records and nine competitors who scored 108 or more points, will help attract new members. (The team’s efforts to increase its numbers are highlighted in the accompanying press release.)
STARKVILLE — Greg Carter thought being the only team in the state to end the season with a win would feel different after years of playoff disappointment. The euphoria from winning the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A state title gave the Starkville High School boys basketball coach a myriad emotions. The victory lifted a burden from Carter’s shoulders and certified his tenure at the school with a tradition-setting run that finally provided the hardware to prove it. But if returning to the court after failing to accomplish all you set out for is difficult, getting over the jubilation of being the best team in the state has proven just as laborious.
STARKVILLE — If there was a more dominant, exciting, and pivotal player than Starkville High’s Rashad Perkins in The Commercial Dispatch coverage area, it might be his alley-oop launcher Edward Townsel. What put Perkins over the top in The Dispatch’s voting process was his performance in the Class 6A state semifinals and final, where he averaged 23 points and 14 rebounds. He set the tone with a Herculean effort of 25 points, 14 rebounds, 13 blocked shots and five steals against Biloxi. The future Southern Miss Eagle didn’t suffer any lag against Rodney Hood and Meridian.
Laura Lee Holman entered her first year in charge of the New Hope High School girls basketball team by setting the bar at a milestone that hadn’t been reached in 18 years. As a former Lady Trojan, she never experienced the joy of lifting a district championship trophye. Many players came before her and finished their New Hope basketball careers in the same fashion. The goal, in all likelihood, was the same New Hope coaches before Holman had set.
WEST POINT — Sometimes, toughness is ingrained in a player. Growing up in a large family of boys and as a self-proclaimed “country girl,” West Point High School point guard Kelsei Ewings has turned what usually is a disadvantage into a weapon. At 5-foot-5, Ewings is used to being one of the shortest players on the court. But while height typically is coveted at every position, Ewings’ blend of speed, vision, shooting, and grit has given West Point coach Jemmye Ann Helms a dynamic weapon the past three years. Ewings averaged 22 points, five assists, four rebounds, and five steals a game this season, leading the Lady Wave to a 17-7 record and a spot in the first round of the Class 5A North Half State playoffs, where they lost to Yazoo City.
Mississippi State University announced Friday its senior associate athletic director Duncan McKenzie will serve as interim athletic director while the school continues its search for a long term replacement for Greg Byrne.
STARKVILLE — Two weeks ago, Mississippi State baseball coach John Cohen could see the effects of a sluggish conference start beginning to take a toll on his team. Cohen made it a point for the coaching staff to analyze every aspect of the Bulldogs’ week –– from batting practice to bullpen routines to overall energy and enthusiasm. During a critical home stretch and in danger of falling behind the eight ball in the race to make the Southeastern Conference Tournament, Cohen sat down with his players and doled out individual assignments and critiques on “effort level and things that we hadn’t been doing a good job of,” Mississippi State senior first baseman Connor Powers said.
STARKVILLE — While most NFL draft prospects head to specialized pre-combine training destinations, Anthony Dixon didn’t see a reason to leave home. After re-writing Mississippi State’s rushing records, the Bulldogs’ heralded running back chose to do his pre-draft testing with MSU strength coach Matt Balis.