Dustin McWilliams likes to talk to himself on the mound. The West Lauderdale left-hander feels his verbal repartee helps keep him focused and prepared for any situation. That’s why a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the third inning Wednesday night didn’t faze him.
Haley Tutor isn’t ready to say goodbye to her senior teammates. That’s why she is going to do everything in her power to see that the New Hope High School fast-pitch softball team’s season ends, fittingly, with a state title. Tutor had a home run, two singles, and six RBIs Wednesday to lead New Hope to a 12-2 victory against West Point in a Class 4A-District 4 game at Lady Trojan Field.
Sports play a lot of roles in our society. Whether it’s basketball or soccer or baseball or football, to name just a few, sports bring communities together. They unite people of different backgrounds and ages behind a school or a team. Sports also bring people together at one location.
STARKVILLE –– Tuesday’s spring football practice at Mississippi State ended differently than the previous one. After the offense scored a touchdown to end a scrimmage Saturday, the defense made a statement Tuesday at the end of a three-hour practice. Linebacker Jamie Jones intercepted a pass from quarterback Chris Relf that caused the defense to celebrate much like the offense did Saturday.
When Ben Fleming signed a scholarship to play baseball at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Ga., he believed it was an opportunity to play for a championship. Fleming, a junior outfielder from Columbus, is halfway through his first season at Southern Polytechnic, and he still believes the team has a chance to win a title. Southern Polytechnic (29-4), of the Southern States Athletic Conference, is off to its best start in school history and is ranked No. 3 in the NAIA Coaches Top 25 poll.
Sometimes teams just want to play. Tom Velek and others involved in soccer in Columbus decided last year to do something about it. Their decision has grown into a full-fledged event this year. Velek and Columbus United Soccer will welcome more than 20 soccer teams and more than 200 players to town Friday and Saturday for the second annual Columbus Friends and Family Days at the Cook Fields.
The Lamar County softball tournament is scheduled for Friday and Saturday at South Lamar High School in Millport, Ala. But after a tragic car accident Monday took the life of South Lamar seventh-grader Madison Orr, South Lamar coach Tony Seals doesn’t know when the tournament will be played.
STARKVILLE — Football has always been in Jody Wright’s blood. From winning three state championships in his playing days at Pickens Academy to playing at Jacksonville State University in Alabama to coaching at Jacksonville and Mississippi State, Wright has always found a way to keep the game a part of his life.
There wasn’t a defining pop. A piercing pain didn’t course through the elbow. Instead, Blake Roberts saw a dispiriting loss in velocity on his fastball and control that signaled something wasn’t right.
CALEDONIA — Justine Jenkins won’t lie. The Caledonia High School standout wanted to play softball in college but she didn’t know if she was good enough. It wasn’t until Jenkins started to relax and to have fun on the softball field that her confidence blossomed.
STARKVILLE –– Saturday was like Christmas morning for Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen. By the end of a two-and-a-half hour spring workout, it began to feel a little that way with a cool front blowing through. Mullen was anxious to watch the film of what the Bulldogs had just done on the practice field so he could find out which players were ready to contribute.
Defensive lineman Pernell McPhee has looked like a man among boys the first three days of Mississippi State spring football practice. McPhee’s 6-4, 270-pound frame was impressive enough without pads, but when the Bulldogs put them on for the first time Saturday, he really had the appearance of a giant. The former Itawamba Community College player, from Pahokee, Fla., could probably play in the National Football League right now. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is glad to have him on his side, even if it’s only for two seasons.
STARKVILLE –– The Starkville Yellow Jackets experienced another walk-off victory at home on Saturday afternoon. For the New Hope Trojans, it was a another disappointing loss. After Blake Dawkins singled in the winning run last Tuesday to help Starkville defeat Tupelo 3-2, it was R.J. Johnson’s turn to do the same. This time the game-winning hit came in the 10th inning as Starkville beat New Hope 2-1.
Bad things aren’t happening once a game this season for the Columbus High School baseball team. In some cases, like in Columbus’ 16-6 victory against West Point in five innings Saturday afternoon, the Falcons make enough positive things happen to outweigh the negatives. But the momentum doesn’t last. In other instances, like in a 12-2 loss in five innings to South Panola on Saturday night, the Falcons can’t overcome mistakes that seem to snowball out of control.
STARKVILLE –– Starkville High School wide receiver Kasey Akins played the waiting game to make sure he found the right place for him to continue his football career. More than a month after watching two of his teammates sign scholarships on National Signing Day, Akins has made his choice. Akins decided to take his talents to Harding University in Searcy, Ark., and made it official on Friday by putting his name on the dotted line.
STARKVILLE — Mississippi State junior second baseman Jet Butler said one thing has given the Bulldogs problems on the road. “We haven’t been able to execute our game plans, but we’ll get better,” Butler said. “We’ll keep scratching and clawing.” MSU faces another road challenge this weekend when it travels to Arkansas for a series of games at 6:30 p.m. today, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday. The Bulldogs (14-10, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) haven’t had the kind of start they wanted in coach John Cohen’s first year, mainly due to a 1-8 record in road and neutral-site games.
STARKVILLE — Jarvis Varnado still hasn’t decided if he will return for his senior season with the Mississippi State men’s basketball team. Varnado will explore the possibility of leaving Mississippi State and turning professional. Varnado and MSU coach Rick Stansbury met Thursday, but no decision was made. Stansbury said there is no rush because the deadline for early-entry candidates to apply for the NBA Draft is April 26.
STARKVILLE — Mississippi State punter Baker Swedenburg probably doesn’t mind a three-hour practice one bit. The work gives the former Heritage Academy player more time to prove himself on the field. After signing with the Mississippi State football team in 2008, Swedenburg, of Columbus, sat out a grayshirt year that enabled him to enroll as a part-time student and to keep his four years of eligibility. Swedenburg finally made it to the practice field Tuesday when the Bulldogs kicked off spring practice. He was back on the field Thursday for the second workout.
Lil’ Wayne and Lump proved to be a difficult tandem to contain Thursday night. It’s a good thing, too, because the Caledonia and West Lowndes High School baseball teams could have played all night. Better known as Demetrius and Devin Malone, the Panthers played key roles in the bottom of the ninth inning to help West Lowndes earn a 5-4 victory.
The bar has been set higher. The Mississippi State women’s basketball team’s mission for the 2009-10 season is to live up to those standards. “It will be up to them,” MSU coach Sharon Fanning said Thursday. The Lady Bulldogs will begin individual workouts next week that they hope will help set the tone for next season. That season has the potential to be the best in the program’s history, not just in victories but in the deepest move into the NCAA tournament.
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