By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
MOOREVILLE – For the first time in four-and-a-half decades, a different man will be calling the shots in the Mooreville High dugout.
Jamie Russell, a former Troopers player and assistant coach, is now at the helm of the Lee County school’s baseball program. He replaced Mississippi’s all-time winningest high school coach, Rex Berryman, who retired following the 2010 season, his 38th at Mooreville.
“I got that drive to win. I hate losing,” said Russell, sounding like his former coach and mentor. “I learned a lot from him. I like to keep them (the players) in the game, keep them on their toes.”
While Russell admits that some of his coaching tactics come from being around Berryman, he is quick to point out that the two have different personalities.
“I’m just going to do it the way I want to and can do it,” said Russell, who coached most of Mooreville’s current upperclassmen when they were in junior high. “You can’t try to be like somebody else. You gotta do it the way you do it. You gotta have your own system.”
The Troopers, who had a phenomenal regular season last year, going 24-2 before losing to Booneville in the second round of the playoffs, face an uphill climb if they are to win state championship No. 9. Four to five spots in the lineup each game will be filled by players with little varsity game experience.
“We need to find some guys who can step up and play,” Russell said.
Senior Channing Nanney is expected to throw more innings this year than he did all of last year, and Matthew Pannell, Corey Rushing, Drew Wheeler and Kurtis Yarbrough will be pitching the bulk of the innings.
Even though there’s a new guy in charge, there is still a level of familiarity and understanding between the players and head coach.
“I coached most of them before,” Russell said. “Some of the ninth- and 10th-graders I didn’t have an opportunity to coach. The 11th-graders and seniors I coached in junior high.
“They know what to expect.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572