By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
Hamilton baseball coach Lewis Earnest said before the season began that this Lions team was the most inexperienced he’s had in 18 years.
Seven starters graduated from the 2011 team, including Ole Miss’ Chase Reeves.
“We were up and down early in the year and really early, more down,” Earnest said, then laughed. “I don’t really have a team of superstars. We’ve got three or four that throw strikes, nobody overpowering but they mix it up.
“We play pretty good defense and get timely hits … not tearing the ball up, but timely hits and things we need.”
Hamilton faces Bruce in the MHSAA quarterfinals this weekend, trying to make it to a sixth straight North State series.
The Lions lost three of their first five to start the season but have won seven of their last eight and swept then-undefeated Hatley to claim the Division 1-2A title last month.
“I think attitude more than anything is what’s been good for us. We’ve been real positive with them,” Earnest said. “We just really tried to enforce how mental baseball is and that you have to accept failure and stay positive and look to next pitch, next at-bat.”
Austin Welch is leading the way at the plate with a .440 batting average. On the mound, Clay Atkins, Ethan Earnest and Hayden Gill have carried the starting load.
Atkins is one of seven seniors. He credits a team meeting prior to the first meeting at Hatley in getting things rolling in the last eight games.
“We started out old but only had a little experience in high school games,” Atkins said. “Everybody was getting used to new starters and it was hard to adjust but at that meeting the seniors made a commitment to the team about working hard and having the hustle. It’s been a whole different ballgame.”
Outfielder Cojuante McMillian has produced in an expanded role and junior third baseman Austin Lewis has been reliable around the infield and at the plate.
“No one is heads above the rest, just a lot of them doing what they have to do,” coach Earnest said.
Hatley still playing
Hatley coach John Harris had watched the Lions play early in the season and saw a different team in April.
Hatley faces East Union this weekend, with all three division foes still in the hunt.
“They just look more confident. Pitching, hitting and all phases of the game have gotten better as the year goes on,” Harris said. “I think that’s a reflection of a good team and a good coaching staff.”
Also this weekend
Fifteen area baseball teams are on tonight’s schedule, with Game 2 Saturday and 3, if necessary, Monday.
Tonight’s matchups include all-NeMiss matchups in 3A with South Pontotoc at Kossuth and Alcorn Central at Belmont.
Division opponents Lafayette and New Albany highlight Class 4A.