By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
This year’s American Legion Baseball State Tournament will feature some new teams, but with some familiar faces.
Among the different teams playing in Pontotoc this weekend are the Hattiesburg Junior team, Itawamba Cardinals and Corinth, which is making its return to Legion ball.
Perennial powers Hattiesburg Bombers, Pontotoc Red Sox and Tupelo 49ers round out the tournament’s field. Last year’s state tournament consisted of a four-team field, featuring the Bombers, Red Sox, 49ers and Booneville Braves.
Since the Braves didn’t field a team this year due to financial reasons and not enough interest, several of the Braves’ players from last year joined either Corinth’s team, the 49ers, Cardinals or Red Sox.
“Pontotoc and Tupelo got some good ones once we dispersed,” said Shane Sanderson, who coached the Braves for five seasons.
Will Wallis and Lee Wilson are two former Braves who joined the Red Sox this season; 2010 Daily Journal All-Area second-team selections Tanner Gaines and Brandon Woodruff are ex-Braves now playing for Tupelo.
Other notable former Braves players playing in this year’s state tournament are Kyle Stephenson (Corinth), Sawyer Wheatley (Itawamba) and Corey Smith (Itawamba).
“I honestly think we got six good teams,” said Red Sox coach Nickey Browning, whose team gets to host the state tournament at the Pontotoc High field. “I don’t know anything about Hattiesburg (the Junior team and Bombers), but I’m sure they’re going to be good.
“We played Mantachie and Corinth, and both of those teams are very capable of beating you at any time. Tupelo’s got an exceptionally good team.”