The Hamilton Lions can win the Class 1A state baseball championship today with one win at Stringer.
The Lions, who have won 15 consecutive games against Class 1A opponents, are the only one of the three area teams who won a home game Tuesday to open the best-of-three championship series.
Hamilton (23-6) can clinch the state championship by beating Stringer (20-8) in the second game of the series. If Stringer wins, a third game would follow.
The other two teams, Tupelo (27-11) in Class 5A and South Pontotoc (29-9) in Class 2A, have their backs against the wall, needing to sweep their games. Tupelo is at Pascagoula (30-4) and South Pontotoc is at Seminary (24-6).
Both area teams lost one-sided home games earlier this week. South Pontotoc’s top pitcher, Sonny Holcomb (14-2), showed signs of arm weariness in a 15-4 loss Tuesday while Tupelo was dominated 8-0 Wednesday by Pascagoula.
“We didn’t play well in that first game,” South Pontotoc coach Steve Lyles said. “We are going to have to bounce back and play awful well. Seminary has a very good team. “
Hamilton, in its first try for a state championship, seems to be in better position. The Lions (23-6) have a home win under their belt as they head south to take on the top Class 1A program of the 1990s. The only time Stringer, which has won three championships in the past five years, wasn’t in the finals was last year. They were eliminated by eventual champion Natchez Cathedral.
The Lions had to hold off the Stringer hitting attack through 10 innings before winning 7-6 Tuesday at Hamilton. Tracy Cockerham went the distance, striking out 14.
However, Hamilton has some strong pitching left in Josh West (6-2) and Richard Hass (6-1), who combined to sweep Biggersville in the North Mississippi semifinals. Stringer has two solid pitchers left itself: Joey Ward (8-2) and Brante Hester (4-3).
Seminary’s batting lineup is solid from top to bottom. Seminary is batting .375 as a team.
“I believe they can hit BB’s in the dark; they have been playing in the Hattiesburg area with the Petals and Oak Groves, and they play really good baseball,” Lyles said.
While Holcomb may not be able to go for the first game today, Lyles said he may be available for limited work in the second game, if needed.
Lyles has two starters available in Chance Austin (3-0) and Chad Holcomb (6-2), Sonny Holcomb’s brother.
“We will pitch who we have to pitch,” Lyles said. “We have several pitchers I have confidence in.”
Pitching could go against the Cougars, too. Seminary is deep in pitching, and Brad McKissack, Tuesday’s winner, was the No. 3 pitcher of the loaded Seminary staff that includes Teddy Mauney and Mississippi State football signee Kenny Williamson.