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By Gene Phelps
The wait was a long one, but well worth it for Saltillo’s archery team.
The Tigers recorded an impressive 3,360 score Tuesday on the first day of the Archery in Mississippi Schools (AIMS) State Shoot in Jackson, but had to wait until the completion of Wednesday’s round to know their fate.
Saltillo’s lofty score won the program its third straight Class 5A and overall state championships in the third year of the state competition.
“You sit and wait,” said first-year head coach Eric Reynolds, who was as assistant for two seasons. “You count down the hours.”
Reynolds liked the idea of shooting on the first day, then coming home to wait.
“When you shoot on Tuesday no scores are posted,” he said. “It takes the pressure off your shooters. It helped not having to worry about shooting a certain score to win.
“I told my team, we’re here to set the score, not reach it.”
Landon Jones posted a 293 score to lead boys while Tori Thornberry was the top girls shooter with a 279.
“I’m proud of this group of shooters,” Reynolds said. “They are undefeated in three years. They’ve gone beyond what anybody expected them to do.”
Coach John Tigner’s Mantachie Mustangs, the Class 2A state champions, had a long wait, too. They posted a 3,306 score Tuesday before heading back to Itawamba County.
“The anticipation is tough,” he said. “We had a great score and we shot great. That was the best score we’ve had all season.”
Hatley, East Union and New Site finished second through fourth in the 11-team field.
Lane Scribner and Greg Cooper posted the top boys scores with 286s. Summer Dill was the girls top shooter with a 277.
“This is a great group of kids, who’ve worked hard for this,” Tigner said.
Tremont now knows that every shot counts.
The Eagles captured their first Class 1A state championship with a 5-point win against Northeast Mississippi foe Smithville – 3,162 to 3,157. Pine Grove was third with a 3,130.
“We shot first Wednesday and left the arena to go eat,” Tremont coach Sandy Webb said. “Then we came back to watch (Smithville).”
When the scores were posted, Tremont remained on top, but Webb didn’t let her team celebrate until it was officially announced.
“Then we cheered,” she said. “I’m proud of my kids. They’ve out in so many hours to get better.”
Trenton Timms led the Eagles boys with a 294 score while Tammy Sanderson was fourth on the team and the top girl with a 267.
Amory’s Andrew Kizzire posted the shoot’s top boys score with a 295. Nettleton’s Candice Barnes had a 289 to lead the girls.
HERNANDO – Tupelo coach Gary Enis hoped a focused and determined Golden Wave baseball team would show up Wednesday to play Hernando with a division championship on the line.
His team, which suffered a shutout loss to the Tigers in Tupelo on Tuesday, didn’t let him down.
Tupelo, powered by Hudson Roy’s solo home run in the seventh inning and a clutch relief pitching performance from sophomore left-hander Jason Garrett, defeated Hernando 4-2 to capture the Division 2-6A regular-season title.
“I’m proud of a bunch of guys who came together tonight, especially after the disapppointing (5-0) loss (Tuesday),” Enis said. “They refused to lose.”
Tupelo (18-6, 6-3 2-6A) earned a first-round playoffs bye with the win. Hernando (15-9, 6-3) will play a play-in series next week.
Hernando trailed 3-0 entering the sixth inning, but rallied against Golden Wave starter Carter Clayton (6-1). The Tigers chased him with a single and two doubles, the last one a two-run shot to center by Will Craft.
Garrett entered and got three consecutive outs, two on ground outs and one on a rundown.
In the seventh, he sent the Tigers down in order – two on strikeouts – for the save.
“I wanted to come in and throw strikes,” he said. “I knew I had to step up. I knew we needed it.”
Roy, a senior first baseman/pitcher, led off the top of the seven with his first high school homer, a shot over the right field wall.
Clayton, Ty Wheeler and Luke Weeden all had RBI singles for Tupelo.
Tupelo was third in 6A, Amory second in 4A and South Pontotoc and North Pontotoc second and third in 3A. Hatley, East Union and New Site finished behind Mantachie in 2A while Smithville and Pine Grove took second and third in 1A.
Amory’s Andrew Kizzire had the boys high overall score with a 295. Nettleton’s Candice Barnes had the girls high overall with a 289.
See Friday’s high school page for more coverage.
TUPELO – The Division 2-6A baseball championship will be decided tonight … in Hernando.
That’s not exactly the scenario Tupelo coach Gary Enis was hoping for. His Golden Wave could have clinched the title at home Tuesday, but instead lost 5-0 to the visiting Hernando Tigers.
“This puts the pressure on; it comes down to one game,” Enis said. “They’re playing at home and we’re on the road.
“We’ve got to come in more focused and determined to win.”
Tupelo (17-6 overall, 5-3 division) and Hernando (15-8, 6-2) play at 6 p.m. The series between the two teams is tied at 1-1. Today’s game was postponed Monday because of rain.
“This will be the deciding third game,” said an excited Hernando coach Dave Lara, whose program moved up from 5A this year. “This is what both teams have been playing for all year. It’s going to be a good game.”
Hernando took a 1-0 lead into the sixth inning and sealed the victory with four runs, three on a two-out double to center field by No. 9 batter Caleb Wilcke.
“He’s been pretty successful with runners on base,” Lara said of Wilcke, the Tigers’ right fielder. “He battles and battles.”
Wilcke’s double was one of six hits off Tupelo left-hander Hudson Roy (4-1), who suffered his first loss. Roy recorded seven strikeouts in seven innings.
Hernando starter, right-hander Ian Painter (4-0), fired a three-hitter and recorded six strikeouts. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fifth with a strikeout of Michael Ray.
“Ian has pitched well all year,” Lara said. “He gives us a chance. He throws strikes and we play good defense behind him.”
The Golden Wave had two runners on in the second with two out, but Painter escaped with a strikeout.
“We couldn’t get the big two-out hit and they got one early,” Enis said, referring to Painter’s two-out RBI single in the second to give Hernando its 1-0 lead.
By Gene Phelps
Michael Ray didn’t get a lot of sleep in the early morning hours of Nov. 2, the day of the MHSAA State Swim Championships.
He started at safety for Tupelo High’s football team the night before in a division game against DeSoto Central in Southaven. The next day, at Delta State University’s Aquatics Center, he was scheduled to swim in three events for the Golden Wave.
“I got about five hours of sleep,” said Ray, a senior. “I had to get up early, shave my legs and that stuff to get ready to swim (in the preliminaries).”
Ray, his body still aching from a night of football, went out and helped Tupelo’s boys capture their seventh straight state championship in the pool.
“In that atmosphere, your adrenaline going, coach calling your name … you really don’t feel anything,” he said.
Ray’s contribution was a victory in the 50-yard freestyle and swimming a leg on the winning 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay teams.
Ray’s third leg, the butterfly stroke, in the medley relay gave the Golden Wave its win.
“We were behind and he puts us in the lead,” Tupelo swim coach Lucas Smith said. “You can put him anywhere you want to and tell him to compete … and he’ll do it.”
Success in football
Tupelo football assistant coach Lamar Aldridge praised Ray’s willingness to do whatever it takes.
“He’s a hard-nosed player, a good guy to have,” said Aldridge, the team’s defensive coordinator. “He’s unselfish. He does whatever you ask him to do.”
Ray, who recorded 75 tackles, intercepted two passes and blocked a kick for the state’s top defense, nearly skipped his senior season.
His plan was to concentrate on swimming and baseball, until his mom got a call from a football assistant coach in mid- July wanting to know if her son was planning to participate in summer football workouts.
“I’m so glad I decided to play,” Ray said. “We went all the way, to the championship game. It was really fun to be a part of it.”
Ray’s athletic pursuits didn’t end in December when the Golden Wave lost in the 6A state championship game to Oak Grove. This spring, he’s starting in the outfield for the Golden Wave after leading the team with a .482 batting average in 2013.
“He can do it all for us … hit, run the bases, cover ground in the outfield,” Tupelo baseball coach Gary Enis said in the preseason. “He’s an exceptional athlete.”
Ray’s prowess on the diamond was evident earlier this season in a division game against Hernando. His triple plated three key runs. On the same play, he was thrown out when he attempted to stretch the three-bagger into an inside-the-park grand slam. Many thought he scored on head-first slide at the plate.
Tweeted one enthused observer: “What a freak athlete.”
Ray’s also a talent behind the microphone. He recently was awarded a first-place certificate from the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association as television anchor for THS.
By Gene Phelps
Corinth’s Lady Warriors and their future softball opponents will have to go cold turkey on sunflower seeds and gum.
Those two items will be a no-no when Corinth begins play, hopefully later this spring, on its new artificial turf softball field.
“It feels nice and it looks nice,” Corinth coach Janna LaBarrearre said. “There’s not going to be a lot of upkeep … no sunflower seeds and gum.”
Workers were spreading the rubber infill this week on the synthetic surface at the new complex, located about three-fourths of a mile from the high school.
The infield has brown turf while the outfield turf is green. The field has markings for fastpitch (60 feet between bases, 43 feet from pitching circle to plate) and slowpitch (65 feet and 50 feet).
The dimensions are 225 feet down the lines, 227.5 in the gaps and 230 to center. The outfield fence is 8 feet high in the left and right, and 16 feet in center.
“It’s unbelievable,” Corinth athletics director Chris Coleman said. “It’s softball’s time. It’s their field.”
Coleman said plans call for a baseball field, likely turfed, to be built at the complex. He believes the football program will eventually have artificial turf at its on-campus facility.
LaBarrearre hopes her fastpitch team will be using the field for practice and late-season games by the last week of the month.
“It’s going to be something else,” she said. “I can’t believe it. We started this process three years ago.”
LaBarrearre expects the surface will provide “true hops” for fielders. “Right now, it’s pretty soft,” she said. “When we get all the rubber in it will be a little faster. It’s different than I thought it would be. It’s not as hard as I thought.”
Corinth’s field will be the first for high school softball or baseball in Northeast Mississippi.
TUPELO – It’s not going to get any easier.
That seemed to be the general consensus Thursday in Tupelo’s tennis camp following the Golden Wave’s 7-0 win against Olive Branch in the opening round of the MHSAA Class 6A team playoffs at Rob Leake City Park courts.
“We generally have drawn an easier match in the first round,” Tupelo coach Laurie Bishop said. “We went out in the second round (quarterfinals) last year to Madison Central. This year it’s Starkville or Clinton.”
Starkville and Clinton’s are scheduled for today. A Starkville win would send Tupelo on the road while a Clinton victory would bring the Arrows to Tupelo.
“I’m confident if our players show up and play their best tennis, we can advance,” Bishop said.
Tupelo will host individual play today in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. The winners and runners-up all advance the 6A state tournament scheduled for May 1-2. The team championship will be played April 30.
Andrew Hildenbrand, a sophomore who defeated Olive Branch’s James Long 6-0, 6-0 in Thursday’s match, is expected to play doubles in today’s individual action.
“I’m more of a doubles player,” he said. “I’m more active at the net. I like to attack the ball.”
In the team competition, Hildenbrand likes the Golden Wave’s lineup.
“We’ve got a really talented team with a bunch of good players,” he said.
Against Olive Branch, Tupelo’s Jessie Nabors defeated Ashley Ricketts 6-0, 6-0 in singles. In girls doubles, Mary Buskirk-Briley Chrisman (6-1, 6-0), and Emily Carter-Megan Ware (6-1, 6-2) were winners.
In boys doubles, Hogan Harrington-Will Brawner (6-1, 6-1) and Robert Thompson-Joel Baldwin (6-0, 6-1) won. In mixed doubles, Sarah Lambert Hollingsworth and Kyle Hollingman (6-1, 6-0) won.
By Gene Phelps
TUPELO – Olivia Lipsey was seeking advice Saturday from a veteran teammate … she got none.
Lipsey, a sophomore, was preparing to compete for Tupelo High – for the first time – in the shot put during the 44th annual Daily Journal Relays.
“What do you do when you get nervous?” she asked senior shot putter Patrick Dye, who has three years experience.
“I don’t know,” was his reply.
“You’re no help, Pat,” Lipsey said, then laughed.
Lipsey, a post/forward on the Lady Wave basketball team, is one of three THS athletes competing in the shot put this season for the first time. The other two are senior football players Alyjiawon Johnson and Chad Gunn.
“I’m nervous about doing this in front of people,” Lipsey said. “Everybody is watching you. You’re thinking, ‘I’ve got to get this right.’’’
In her debut, Lipsey threw the 8-pound shot 24 feet, 3 inches. She recorded a 25-foot throw on her first attempt, but fouled.
Dye, who was an offensive lineman in football, said participating in the shot put helps keep him in shape.
Also, he added, “It helps keep me out of trouble.”
The shot put, certainly not one of track and field’s glamour events, combines strength and technique. Boys train with a 16-pound shot and throw a 12-pounder in competition.
It took awhile to get used to the technique,” Dye said. “You have to throw it right. You can tear a muscle in your arm or neck if you don’t do it right.
“Oh,” he added, “and don’t drop it on your foot.”
Antonio Clifton was a standout defensive back this past season for the Golden Wave.
In the Relays, the senior ICC football signee was a star in the pole vault. The first-year vaulter won the large school competition with a leap of 11 feet, 6 inches.
“What I like is the height,” he said. “It’s so much fun.”
THS coach Bryan Jones said Clifton’s background in gymnastics and cheerleading helps him in the event.
“He has jumped on it and gone with it,” Jones said. “We’re proud of him.”
By Gene Phelps
TUPELO – The deeper Tupelo’s soccer team goes into the postseason, the longer it takes for Sarah Lambert Hollingsworth to prepare for tennis season.
She doesn’t mind.
Hollingsworth exited the soccer field the first week in February – Tupelo lost to rival Madison Central in the North state championship – and began prepping for her fifth season as a starter on the Golden Wave tennis team.
“I’m usually a little rusty,” she said. “Soccer gets me in shape for tennis. I can outlast a lot of players.”
A junior, Hollingsworth rarely has trouble switching sports.
“It’s an easy transition for her because she’s so athletic,” Golden Wave tennis coach Laurie Bishop said. “She takes lessons and hits on her own (during soccer).”
Hollingsworth has played singles, doubles and mixed doubles since she became a varsity starter as a seventh grader. This season she has played mixed doubles with Mitch Ostrander and Hogan Harrington.
In Friday’s Tupelo Tournament match against New Albany, she joined Jessie Nabors in a No. 1 girls doubles win. Play continues today at City Park courts.
Hollingsworth isn’t sure where she’ll play when individual postseason play starts Friday in Tupelo. The top two singles players/doubles teams will advance to the state tournament, scheduled for April 30-May 2 in Jackson.
Tupelo begins team competition earlier in the week, but day has not been determined. The Golden Wave, the Division 2 champion, will likely play Division 1 runner-up Olive Branch.
“She handles mixed well, she likes the pace,” said Bishop, who hasn’t released her postseason lineups. “She plays every court really well.”
Hollingsworth enjoys the challenge of playing mixed.
“I have a feeling I’ll play mixed; I’ve played mixed all season,” she said. However, she added, “I think Jessie and I could win playing together in girls doubles.”
Hollingsworth main goal is to help her team.
“I care so much more about the team than winning as an individual,” she said. “I’d like to win an individual championship, but winning as a team would mean more to me.”
By Gene Phelps
TUPELO – Tupelo High’s quest headed into Saturday’s 44th running of the Daily Journal Relays is to prepare for the track and field postseason.
That’s always the goal.
“We’re using this meet to fine tune people for the division meet,” Golden Wave coach Brian Jones said. “You want your best people where you need them by division time.”
The postseason steps off later this month with division, region and North state meets. The state meet is scheduled for May 10 and May 12 in Pearl.
“You use each meet to build,” Jones said. “You don’t want to peak at this time, but we want to solidify what we’ve been working on.”
Tupelo is one of 16 schools with boys and girls teams entered in the Journal Relays, which start at 9 a.m. with the field events.
This year’s meet will feature a 3,200-meter relay, which is not a sanctioned event. Each of the four participants will run two laps – 800 meters.
“Some teams wanted to do it this year,” Jones said. “We did it twice last year at other meets. It gives you an opportunity to look at some of your people in the half mile.”
The Golden Wave boys team has won two meets – Oxford Eagle and Southern Miss – and finished third at Ole Miss.
Tupelo distance runners Darnell Collier, Andrew White and Max Lawson have had competitive springs. Collier and White finished 1-2 in the 3,200 meters in Oxford while Lawson won the 1,600 meters.
Mako Dijkwel won the 800 meters, Maalik Coleman the 300 meter hurdles and Jayland Dillard the 200 meters for Tupelo in Oxford.
The Wave 4×100 and 4×200 relay teams, featuring Quinton Lauderdale, Reed Bigham, Rodney McIntosh and Dillard – have posted winning times.
“They have run really well,” Jones said. “They had their best day in Oxford with their handoffs.”