CRAWFORD -- Two years ago, East Oktibbeha High School didn't have a track program. Saturday, the Titans have a chance to win a state track title. A district title and runner-up regional and Class 1A South State finishes have positioned the Titans to bring the school its first state title -- regardless of sport -- since the girls and boys basketball teams each won state crowns in 2007. Head coach Randy Brooks jump-started the program last year, and with a small group of freshmen sprinters totaled nine points at the state meet last season.
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High's girls' track team heads to Pearl with less representatives than usual, but the Lady Jackets could end up with more individual titles than they did in last year's seventh place finish at the state meet. The Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A North State meet yielded just four state qualifiers for fourth-year head coach Mitchell Evans, but the Starkville graduate is banking on experience to push the five-runner team to a solid finish.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. ---- The South Lamar High School softball team earned a berth in the Final Four of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class A State Tournament by winning two games Thursday. South Lamar put its back to the wall with a 4-1 loss to Pleasant Home in its opening game of the double-elimination tournament, but kept its quest for a state championship alive by beating Sweet Water 10-0 in five innings and Waterloo 1-0. South Lamar (37-12) advanced in the tournament at Lagoon Park to play Ariton at 10:30 a.m. today.
Michael Bradley doesn't want past success to go to his players' heads. The New Hope High School football team has lost to the eventual state champion (Noxubee County in Class 4A in 2008, West Point in Class 5A in '09) the past two seasons.
HAMILTON - At most high schools, winning division titles, playing in North Half title series, and competing for state championships are the stuff of dreams. That's not the case at Hamilton High School, however, where the baseball team has garnered more than its share of championships in the past 16 years.
STARKVILLE -- Sometimes, your next direction comes from a divine source. Clay Stringer's faith in God presented him with an opportunity he has relished since he became a high school teacher and coach. And as tough as the decision to leave Starkville Academy was, Stringer followed his heart and accepted a position to be principal at Hillcrest Christian School.
Bruce Branch can't wait to get started. The 2010 baseball season recently ended for Heritage Academy, but Branch, who was hired as the school's new head coach Tuesday, is already rearing to go. "I am excited for the opportunity," Branch said. "I am kind of overwhelmed. I am trying to take it all in."
David Boykin will coach in Class 4A, Region 4, District 4 this season. The only change is he will do his work at a different school. On Tuesday, the Louisville School District approved the hiring of Boykin as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach for the Louisville High School football team.
Tyrone Shorter didn't intend to stay in Noxubee County. Fresh off a training camp stint with the NFL's San Diego Chargers and a year with the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos, Shorter moved back to Macon to be closer to his mother, who had just remarried. Shorter's step father knew a man -- M.C. Miller -- who changed those plans. Miller, the coach of the Noxubee County High School football team, remembered Shorter from his playing days at Port Gibson High School, and it didn't take him long to offer him a job as an assistant coach on his staff.
Sammy Smith looks back and smiles when he thinks of where Michael Hall, Akeem Toppin and Bobby Wrench were as freshmen. The ninth-graders didn't have a lot of success on the basketball court, but Smith saw the potential in each young man. "They grew, they grew, the grew and they made steps," Smith said. "The group before them, Philip (Morris) and Josh (Carothers, East Central Community College), made a difference in their lives and made them push a little harder. That made myself and the staff feel real good. I think the community will be pleased with how we have the boys going on (to college) and, hopefully, they will be successful in life and with what they're going to do." All three players recently realized opportunities to have basketball be a part of the next steps in their lives. Hall will continue his athletic career at Southwest Mississippi C.C., while Toppin and Wrench will be teammates at Copiah-Lincoln C.C.
The South Lamar High School softball team will get another chance to win a state championship after finishing runner-up last season. South Lamar has earned a berth in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class A State Tournament for the second year in a row after losing to Speake in last year's championship game. The Lady Stallions (34-11) earned a berth in the state tournament by finishing runner-up to Ragland in the North Central Regional Tournament at Vestavia Hills, Ala., this past Saturday. South Lamar's opening game is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday against Pleasant Home at Lagoon Park in Montgomery, Ala.
Four local high school baseball players were recently recognized for their accomplishments and earned spots on their state's All-State teams.
The best is yet to come for Kelli Petty. The New Hope High School track and field standout took the next to last step in her prep career in style Saturday, winning three individual events at the Class 5A North Half State meet.
VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. -- The South Lamar High School fast-pitch softball team won four games to make it to the championship game and finished as the runner-up in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class A North Central Regional Tournament.
Two weeks ago, Chris Chism told his players his fourth season would be his last as the coach of the Hernando High School baseball team. The Tigers are doing everything they can to make Chism's final run a memorable one. Cody Camp and David Hinkle had RBI singles in the top of the seventh inning to help Hernando beat New Hope 5-3 in Game 2 and sweep its best-of-three Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A playoff series.
ACKERMAN -- The Hamilton Lions survived a late scare from Ackerman to post a 9-8 win Saturday and advance in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A playoffs. Hamilton (20-3) dethroned the defending state champions by building a 7-2 lead in the fourth inning and holding on through a furious rally that saw the desperate Indians plate four runs in the sixth inning. Relief pitcher Chase Reeves rebounded from the shaky sixth by striking out three batters in the final inning.
Five innings wasn't enough for Olivia Ladner. While some pitchers would have taken the opportunity to rest after a six-run inning created an eight-run deficit for her team, Ladner preferred to finish what she started. That final deficit in Game 2 changed only slightly, which allowed the New Hope High School fast-pitch softball team to force a third game 20 minutes later. The break apparently worked wonders for Ladner.
HAMILTON -- The Hamilton High School fast pitch softball team learned a valuable lesson here Saturday afternoon -- when you live by the sword, sometimes you also die by the sword. Last week, the Lady Lions switched to a "small ball" strategy en route to a 7-3 win against East Union in the second and deciding game of their best-of-three series with the Lady Urchins in the opening round of the MHSAA Class 2A playoffs.
HAMILTON -- Support comes in all varieties.
In baseball, teammates can back their pitchers with solid defense, timely hitting, and a selfless approach.
The Hamilton High School baseball team is fortunate because it has five seniors who provide that support in every facet of the game.
Left-handed pitcher Dylan Earnest and outfielder Kevin McCartney probably are the two of Hamilton's most recognized players, but designated hitter Devin Hopper, shortstop Nathan Cockerham, and outfielder Cole Johnson have played integral roles in the Lions' success this season.
Survive and advance.
It sounds simple, but nothing is easy in high school athletics.
Even the most "outmanned" teams can give an opponent a test to remember.
Neshoba Central reminded the New Hope High School baseball team of that fact in the first round. The Rockets used stingy pitching and stout defense to stretch the Division 2, District 1 champions to three games before Blake Roberts' complete-game effort pushed the Trojans to the second round.
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