The Wingfield Falcons find themselves between the Rock and a hard place today.
The visitors from Jackson find themselves at City Park in Fulton. The Itawamba AHS turf is a hard place to win for any visitor, and it is the site for a 1 p.m. doubleheader that opens the second-round best-of-3 series in the Class 4A state baseball playoffs.
Add to that the pitching of IAHS senior Jamie Rock, who not only leads the hitters with a .529 average and 38 RBI, but has built an 11-2 record by striking out 129 batters.
The Indians (24-6) are among nine area teams still alive in the second round.
Class 1A features a pair of all-area matchups with Mantachie (24-4-1) at Hamilton (18-6) and Biggersville (17-1-1) at Vardaman (8-15). Also, Tupelo (22-9) is at Clinton in Class 5A, Pontotoc (21-5) is at Leland (19-8) in Class 3A and Riverside (13-15) at South Pontotoc (25-8) and Mooreville (22-9) at Greenville St. Joseph (15-7) in Class 2A.
The Wingfield Falcons (19-7) find themselves coming up against a surging IAHS Indian team that pounded out 28 hits last week in outscoring Koscuisko for an opening round sweep.
“We were disappointed that we didn’t play a little better, but we have really been hitting the ball well,” coach Brian Long said.
While IAHS has made the playoffs seven of the past 11 years, the Indians hope to advance to the second round for the first time.
The two series in the Delta are continuing playoff traditions.
Mooreville has five state championships under coach Rex Berryman. Greenville St. Joseph has been in the playoffs so often, St. Joe’s coach Raymond Faulkner can’t remember when the Fighting Irish didn’t make the playoffs.
Ironically today’s doubleheader, amid the construction to get the park ready for minor league baseball, will be the first time the two programs have met in the playoffs.
“It seems like we have been to every town over there, Baldwyn, Booneville, East Union, but we and Mooreville have always been on a different side of the bracket. One or the other has been put out before we met,” Faulkner said. “I am excited about it. This is a chance to see how good we are. Our division (4-2A) is not very strong.
“When you have someone like Rex, who has been around for a while, he has always got something to come up with.”
One of those things has been managing pitchers to get the most out of them, like gambling on left-hander Daniel McKinney (6-3) in the first game of the Bruce sweep last week so he could use the last inning for No. 1 starter Rhasheen Dilworth (8-3) to warm up in relief for Game 2.
Just 20 miles away, Pontotoc will be part of a regular feature of the Class 3A playoffs a matchup with Leland (19-8). Leland is 0-3 in series against the Warriors.
Leland coach Rocky Landi says with Pontotoc’s depth, including the pitching of sophomore Kevin Bean and the hitting of Myron Hereford, it doesn’t look good for his team.
“We are going to have to catch a few breaks and catch them not playing as well,” Landi said. “We are the weakest we have been here in seven or eight years.”