March 17, 2015 9:26:52 AM
STARKVILLE -- New Hope High School senior first baseman Wells Davis had been looking forward to the opportunity to become a team leader.
"The seniors have really accepted the leadership role in everything we do," Davis said. "For me, it's like a dream come true because we have been waiting on this moment. I have always looked forward to this. There is a lot of tradition around here, so we aren't going to take the expectations of being a leader lightly."
Davis had three hits, including a mammoth home run, and classmate Josh Stillman pitched a three-hitter as the New Hope baseball team routed Starkville 14-2 Monday night in a five-inning game at Carlisle Field.
The two-time reigning Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state champions are looking for an identity. The Trojans also are looking for some better weather. Coach Lee Boyd thought the team made strides in those areas Monday night.
"We have had some ups and downs, so it is really hard to tell where we stand," Boyd said. "When we swing the bat a little bit, we are going to be tough to beat. Through the first six games, we have been mixing and matching the lineup. I am beginning to feel comfortable with where we are at."
New Hope had 12 hits in what Davis, Stillman, and Boyd called the team's best offensive game. The Trojans also took advantage of five errors, five walks, two hit batters, four wild pitches, and five passed balls.
Those ingredients were more than enough for Stillman, who has settled into a groove as the team's ace and another key senior leader.
"This team started out slow," Stillman said. "We are putting things together. The pitching is getting sharper. At the plate, we have gotten a lot better. Early in the year, we were striking out way too much. Now everybody is patient and putting the ball in play more. We had some really quality at-bats tonight."
Stillman struck out 11 and allowed singles to three players. The Trojans had a brief lapse in the field when Starkville scored twice thanks to two hits and two errors in the third inning.
"I felt pretty good on the mound," Stillman said. "I had a couple of big defensive plays behind me, which really helped out. We have been so good defensively the last two years, and hopefully this team can continue to work at it and become like those teams.
"After you get a big lead, you just want to pound the strike zone. It is always good to jump on a team early."
New Hope (4-2) did that by scoring four runs in the first. Davis' home run in the third helped increase the lead. The Trojans then scored five times in the fourth and four times in the fifth.
Davis had three hits and three RBIs and walked in his other at-bat. Aidan Fletcher also had three hits and three RBIs.
"Wells has had some struggles early in the season, so hopefully that gets him going," Boyd said. "He is an outstanding hitter when he gets into a rhythm. Aidan is off to an excellent start. He has been hitting right at .500 through the first six games."
Davis also hopes the home run to right-center field and a hard-hit hit to right field an inning later on a 3-2 pitch will kick start his season. He feels like the Trojans can overcome their lack of experience by putting out a lineup of older players.
"This team is inexperienced, but it is not young," Davis said. "We have juniors and seniors on the field, so the age is there. For this team, it is all about knocking off the rust and getting better. We are getting better each time out. We feel like we can be competitive with anybody. For me hopefully this was a breakout game.
"The rain has made it difficult on all of us because we haven't been able to play or practice consistently, but we are working hard at being the best team we can become."
Stillman and Will Godfrey had multiple hits for New Hope.
A.J. Brown had an RBI single for Starkville (2-5). Starting pitching Ben Burrell faced three batters and took the loss.
In Monday's first game, South Panola beat Starkville 8-6. Tyler Barnes hit a two-run home run for the Yellow Jackets.
n Caledonia 9, New Hope 4: At Caledonia, Hope Burton had two singles and was the winning pitcher to lead the Lady Confederates.
Hope Harbin had a single and a sacrifice, Gracie McCleskey and Landri Brown had singles, Cassie Obman and Nicole Kifer had a single and a double, Alex Burns had a sacrifice, and Stephanie Wilkes had two singles.
Megan James had two hits, and Anna Kate O'Bryant had two RBIs for the Lady Trojans.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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