Booneville embraces its underdog role

baseball_icon_greenBy David Wheeler

Special to the Journal

The Pontotoc Red Sox and Tupelo 49ers are favored in most years to challenge for the senior American Legion State Championship.

The Booneville Banditos want to earn that elite status in Mississippi, too.

Until then, they will embrace the underdog role, including this year’s state tournament, which begins Friday in Pontotoc.

“We are kinda the new kids in this,” Booneville head coach Caleb Reno said. “We embrace the underdog role, and it’s something we talk about.”

The Booneville squad has quietly amassed a solid 13-8 mark for the 2014 season, and hopes to improve its winning percentage when they open play in the tournament Friday against the 49ers at 5 p.m.

Booneville is one of three area teams in the tournament.

“No matter who you’re matched up against, these are all quality teams,” Reno said. “I think we’ll be in the hunt this weekend.”

Getting on base and running has been the strength of the Booneville offense thus far this season, and Reno points to the efforts of North Pontotoc graduate and Blue Mountain College commit Miciah Heard, and Houston senior Garrison Howell.

“We can put Heard in the 1 hole, or the 3 hole, and get quality at bats,” Reno said. “With Howell, it’s hard to find a high school player with the understanding of the strike zone like him.”

Homers, pitching

Booneville is not totally a small-ball squad, as evidenced by Ripley’s Tucker Jenkins and Tray Davis from East Union hitting home runs versus Tupelo Monday in a tournament warmup.

Reno also feels the Banditos boast a deep pitching staff, with Alcorn Central’s Justin Pickle and Hunter Bronson as two of the stoppers.

Booneville’s season featured a 9-0 start with wins over Pontotoc and Tupelo.

The state tournament is double elimination, with the championship scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday, and 11 a.m. Monday, if needed.