By David Wheeler/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
Northeast Mississippi high schools have provided more than their fair share of competitive divisions throughout the various seasons.
For the 2013 baseball campaign, the four-team Division 2-5A with the Saltillo Tigers, Oxford Chargers, West Point Green Wave, and New Hope Trojans is certainly shaping up again as one of the toughest.
“It’s the same as usual this season, all the teams in the division are on an even keel,” veteran Saltillo head coach Johnny Bolen said. “Every time we play a division game, we know it’s going to be a good game.
“I don’t think there is going to be a team that will run the table in this division. You start looking at this division, and then look at other 5A divisions, there is no comparison.”
New Hope won the division in 2012, advancing through the playoffs before losing to Hernando in the 5A semifinals. In 2011, Oxford advanced to the 5A semifinals before losing to Ridgeland.
Certainly, Bolen and the Tigers would like that kind of trip into and through the playoffs this season.
“Our pitching could be a strength, we certainly have more depth there,” Bolen said. “If we get to the seventh inning, we feel good with Blake Wiggington in there.”
The side-arming senior is part of the Tigers depth, along with junior Tory Gifford, senior Reed Morrison, junior Drew Rhudy, and sophomore Zane Reese. Bolen also likes the experience Tupelo Christian transfer Andrew Soper brings behind the plate at catcher.
Saltillo and Oxford were also put out of the playoffs by Hernando last season, and Chargers head coach Chris Baughman agrees that 2013 will be another challenge just to get to the postseason.
“Teams get after each other in this division,” Baughman said. “I like our chances with our defense and pitching.”
Southern Mississippi quarterback signee Parker Adamson will not be on the team this season, and Baughman must also deal with Clarion-Ledger Dandy Dozen outfielder William Elliot being on the mend from a wrist injury until mid-March.
Senior Steven Whitfield and junior Hunter Roth will be two of Oxford’s stoppers on the mound, with senior catcher Henry Webb also key.