BASEBALL PLAYOFFS START TODAY
Today’s first-round doubleheaders
NORTH 5A: Starkville at Horn Lake, Southaven at Tupelo (21-9), Madison Central at Callaway, Greenville at Clinton.
NORTH 4A: Kosciusko (18-7) at Itawamba AHS (22-6), Wingfield at Cleveland East Side, Tishomingo County (25-4) at New Hope (35-0), Northwest Rankin at Cleveland.
NORTH 3A: Rosa Fort (13-5) at Pontotoc (21-5), Humphreys County at Leland, Saltillo (16-9) at Senatobia (18-9), Rosedale at Hollandale-Simmons (26-0).
North 2A: Bruce (20-7) at Mooreville (20-9), West Tallahatchie at Greenville St. Joseph, Hatley (14-9) at South Pontotoc (22-7), Riverside at Ruleville.
NORTH 1A: Walnut (14-14) at Mantachie (19-4-1), Noxapater at Hamilton (16-6), Biggersville (15-11-1) at Ingomar (13-8), Vardaman (6-14) at Nanih Waiya.
By Mike Talbert
Mooreville’s Rhasheen Dilworth will have one of the biggest tests today in a season of sacrifice.
Mooreville (20-9) opens the Class 2A state baseball playoffs hosting the Bruce Trojans (20-7) in a doubleheader in the best-of-three first-round series. Mooreville and Bruce, the Division 2-2A runner-up, are among 15 area teams playing first-round doubleheaders today. Third games, if needed, will be played Tuesday.
“Rhasheen is the best third baseman that I have had here in years,” Mooreville coach Rex Berryman said. “But he has had to pitch and play first base. He had to sacrifice his best position for the good of the team, and our young players came through.”
That meant the Troopers won the Division 1-2A championship after a slow start. Dilworth built an 8-3 record on the mound and hit .415.
Lee County has the most area teams in the playoffs, with Mooreville, Division 2-5A champion Tupelo (21-9), which hosts Southaven, and Division 1-3A runner-up Saltillo (16-9). Saltillo’s Tigers are in their first playoffs since 1990, at Senatobia (18-9).
Two other counties, Pontotoc and Itawamba, will host two doubleheaders today.
In Itawamba County, Mantachie (19-4-1), the area’s No. 1 small school, hosts Walnut (14-14). The No. 4 large school and Division 1-4A champion Itawamba AHS Indians (22-6) host Division 2-4A runner-up Kosciusko (18-7).
Division 2-2A champion South Pontotoc (23-7) opens against Hatley (14-9), and Pontotoc (21-5) hosts Rosa Fort (13-5).
Tishomingo County (25-4), the No. 1 area team, which shared the Division 1-4A lead with IAHS but lost a tiebreaker, visits the New Hope Trojans. New Hope wrapped up a 35-0 regular season Wednesday with an 11-3 win over Aberdeen.
New Hope coach Stacy Hester defends his record with anyone, pointing out that 14 of the wins are against playoff teams in three states.
“We feel good about our chances,” Hester said. “Nobody stayed with us if our hitting was behind our pitchers.”
New Hope’s pitching is a stingy 1.69 ERA as a team and the team hits .335.
Hester said it was important for the Trojan’s to wrap this series at home with pitchers Jeff Hunter (12-0, 1.85 ERA) and Buddy Wyers (6-0, 1.87 ERA), though he has seven undefeated pitchers.
“We don’t want to go up there for a third game,” Hester said. “I know they are well coached, Jerry Long does a good job with them.”
Tishomingo County coach Jerry Long has some strong hitters to counter the New Hope pitching, including top pitcher Ricky Lambert (7-1, 86 strikeouts, 2.02 ERA), who is hitting .581, and Blake Holly (7-2, 2.20 ERA), who is hitting .511.
“We have been in situations like this before and we have responded,” Long said.