By David Wheeler
Special to the Journal
Kirk Presley has taken the senior American Legion Tupelo 49ers baseball team in his 12 years as head coach.
What advice does he have for the 2014 squad as they head to Arkansas for today’s tournament opener?
“Don’t give a team you’ve never seen before too much credit,” Presley said. “We play a lot of good baseball in Mississippi.”
The 49ers will get their chance to display that Mississippi brand of ball today at approximately 12:30 p.m., against the Missouri state champion at Vince DeSalvo Stadium in North Little Rock in the Mid South Regional of the American Legion national tournament.
Win or lose, the 49ers will play Friday under a double elimination format against either the Tennessee champ or the host Little Rock team. Tupelo would play at approximately 7:30 p.m. Friday with a win, or at 12:30 p.m. with a loss.
“We were hitting all cylinders when we won our state tournament,” said Presley, whose 49ers won the Mississippi crown July 28. “There were times during the summer we didn’t look good defensively, and that was solid during the tournament.
“And I can’t say enough about how good our pitching was. This team has done things the right way, and this game rewards teams who do things right.”
The 49ers used only six pitchers in the first five games of the state tournament. That included four complete games, led by Collin McCrory (5-1) from Amory and Blue Mountain College.
Defensively, Presley likes how Ben Seay from Mooreville and Chase Cernigliaro from Tupelo have adjusted by playing in new positions.
Presley likes how the lineup was more than solid 1-9 during the five days of the state tournament. Still the strength of the order is in the middle, where three Itawamba Community College players are leading the 49ers in RBIs.
Two of those are from Amory, sophomores Tanner Poole (.442) and Hayden Williams (.420). Poole, Williams, and McCrory each played with the 49ers in this last year’s regional when Tupelo went 2-2.
Presley has a bit of a scouting report on the Missouri champ. Four of the first six hitters are left-handed and Presley will counter with the left handed McCrory in Game 1.
Other state champs in the regional are from Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, and Louisiana.