Hamilton will deal its ace first

PEARL – Hamilton coach Lewis Earnest and Richton coach Brandon Davis are in agreement – throw your top guns and see what happens.
That’s the plan on each side for today’s MHSAA Class 2A state championship Game 1 of the best-of-three series scheduled for 7 p.m. at Trustmark Park.
Hamilton’s trip south was on hold until Monday when a Hinds County judge denied an appeal filed by parents of Bruce High School team members.
Bruce won the North series against Hamilton last week, but the MHSAA ruled it had to forfeit its 6-5 win because one of its pitchers, Caleb Hanley, threw more than the allotted 17 innings allowed in a week.
Look for Hamilton (21-5) to throw Dylan Earnest, an ICC signee, in the opener. He is 10-0 with a 0.89 ERA.
Richton (29-3) will counter with 9-0 Tilur Smith, a likely high MLB draft selection, who has posted a 1.34 ERA.
“You’ve got to play your No. 1 in Game 1,” Lewis Earnest said. “If you can win, you’ve got a lot better chance normally. The way it’s set up, both No. 1s can come back for Game 3.”
The two have met before. Richton beat Hamilton for the 2A title in 2008, the first of two straight for the Rebels. Hamilton’s last championship came in 2001, but the Lions are making their third trip in four years to Trustmark Park.
“We’re going to go at them hard,” Davis said. “We know they have three or four guys who can really hit the baseball, so we’ve got to be careful with those guys and not let them beat us.
“We’re going to have to compete every pitch.”
Competing against Earnest in Game 1 means making contact. The senior left-hander has walked only six batters all season and works quickly.
He has thrown two perfect games in less than a year, one for Pontotoc’s Legion team and another against Calhoun City this season.
Richton has hit 43 home runs, 13 of those by Smith, a South Alabama signee. He leads the team at the plate with a .549 average and 39 RBIs.
Earnest is also Hamilton’s leading hitter with a .484 average and a team-high 23 RBIs.
“We’ve just got to play well,” Earnest said. “Dylan has to pitch well and the other pitchers have to pitch well. I think it’s going to come down to whoever plays better and makes the least mistakes.”

Brandon Speck/Monoroe Journal