David Wheeler on High School Sports – the Fall Baseball version!

What is the latest on baseball you might ask?
I bet most of you would not be asking this right now, but this June really opened my eyes to the off-season efforts of many high school sports, and a couple of things have hit my radar.
Secondly, I am probably going into a bit of a preseason Tupelo Golden Wave preview, for whatever reason (yes, I don have a horse in that race).
Firstly, the Fall season of the Cotton States League just completed.
The Cotton States League in New Albany has a June through July college schedule, and has a July, and September through early November high school schedule.
The July schedule does not have a playoff, but the Fall schedule does. Officially, the Pyromaniacs defeated the Gnats 2-1 in the championship game Nov. 11.
For the record, the Pyromaniacs roster featured three players from Booneville, two from Pontotoc, four from South Pontotoc, two from IAHS, and even one from Alabama.
Ryan Watts from Pontotoc led the team with a .409 average, with Jonathan Duncan from South Pontotoc at .407, and Kolten Ferguson from South Pontotoc at .400. And on the mound, Duncan and Braxton Rhodes from Fayette County (Ala.) were both 3-0 pitching.
The point of this rundown?
There were over 260 kids grades 9-12 in the fall league from about 62 high schools throughout North Mississippi, and even a handful from Alabama and Tennessee.
This is just tremendous. A great opportunity for off-season baseball.
Just to be fair, on the Gnats roster, four players from Hernando, three from East Union, three from Baldwyn, and one from Amory.
Leading the Fall League in batting was Hunter Harlow of Saltillo with a .600 average in 15 at bats. That was followed by Nick Smith from Lafayette at .579 in 19 at bats, Tyler Hallam from Oxford at .542 in 24 at bats, and at .500 were Hayden Cummings from Pontotoc, Trey Hall from Bruce, Trevor Wison from Falkner, and Austin Sanders from East Union.
Another thing that struck me about the Cotton States was the number of Tupelo Golden Wave participating, with an especially high number of underclassmen.
The two top hitters from Tupelo who played in July, as well as the Fall League were Colton Norrod at a combined .452 in 42 total at bats, and Ty Wheeler at a combined .419 in 62 total at bats. Of note for Tupelo, just from July, Carter Clayton hit .533, Reed Taylor .522, Michael Ray .500, and Wheeler .484.
Usually, you do not see such a turnout by Tupelo players outside of American Legion baseball.
This is truly a regional league.

Some Ramblings on Tupelo Baseball
This sort of put me in the mood for the spring, and high school baseball season around here.
I do remember from the June NEMCABB Tournament how easy Lafayette’s D.K. Bufford roamed the outfield as the Commodores won that.
It also made me think of how good the Tupelo Golden Wave outfield could be this coming season.
J. G. Miley, Rob McCauley, Hudson Roy, Bud Goss – they could be the best defensive outfield ever for the Golden Wave. And you might have to throw in Michael Ray, and perhaps some other combination, for offensive reasons.
Having missed the playoffs for the first time since probably 1983, I truly think the Wave could rebound strongly in 2013 beginning with the strength of its outfield defense.
That outfield will benefit what could be a strong junior pitching staff built around Clayton (4-0), Roy (3-3), Wheeler (1-0), and Luke Weeden. Seniors Michael Hensley and Ben Matthews should figure in the rotation as well.
Clayton might have the most solid lock on the infield at shortstop, with perhaps offense dictating who plays, and when.
Hensley appears to have a lock at catcher, with backup from Ray, and perhaps even sophomore William Ikerd.
And most of the previously mentioned players have offensive potential that Tupelo failed to show last season.
Yes, I am already thinking of the high school baseball season, which is becoming a year-round season in Northeast Mississippi.

David Wheeler has been contributing to the high school sports coverage of the Daily Journal since 1985.

Posted in Sports

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