CATEGORY: Baseball



By Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

One thing is certain for baseball in Class 2A this season: a new North Half champion will be crowned.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association made sure of that when it moved 1996 2A champion West Lowndes to Division 5-2A in the South Half.

West Lowndes knocked off Northeast Mississippi teams Booneville and Calhoun City on its way to the state title last year. The door of opportunity is open for someone, perhaps Calhoun City.

It will be in interesting season in the City. The Wildcats advanced to the 2A semifinals last season, losing to West Lowndes in three games. Calhoun City finished 26-10 and returns an experienced lineup for first-year coach Cory Vance.

Although West Lowndes is gone from the North, defending Class 1A runner-up East Union has been added to Calhoun City’s Division 2-2A. Vance expects the Urchins, 27-9 a year ago, to contend, even though staff ace Chris Carr has developed arm problems.

“I’m excited,” said Vance, who awaits seven players from the basketball team. “These guys are being true leaders, giving me everything they’ve got in practice.”

Santo Armstrong and Chad Cook starters since the eighth grade return for their senior seasons. Armstrong hit .470 with 15 home runs and 35 stolen bases last season. Former coach Mike Ray says Armstrong should be a draft pick this spring.

“Santo puts so much pressure on a defense that they forget about our other hitters when he’s on base,” Vance said.

Cook hit .405 with five home runs last season, and Vance is also looking to pitcher-left fielder Jody Jennings, a .350 hitter in ’95.

After four years away, Booneville returns to Division 1-2A. The Blue Devils finished 28-8 last year, losing to West Lowndes in three games in the second round of the playoffs.

Booneville coach Rick Coggin lost six of eight position players, but the cupboad isn’t bare. The Blue Devils are experienced on the hill, returning seniors Hayden Hughes, Jamie Pittman and T.J. Carr.

“We’ll have to rely on that early,” Coggin said, “until we get some experience in other spots. It will take time to fill those holes. We’ll probably start three sophomores on the infield, but we feel like we have some young men who can step up.”

Mooreville coach Rex Berryman is hoping his young men will step up also.

“We will have starters at first, third and catcher who have never played high school ball,” Berryman said. “We are expecting a long season, especially in the beginning.”

Mooreville finished 21-13 in ’95, losing to Calhoun City in three games in the first round of the playoffs.

Both Berryman and Coggin expect Mooreville to figure into the 1-2A race. The Bearcats were 14-12 last season, losing in two games to Calhoun City in the second round.

“They were right there with us, and they’ve got some people back,” Coggin said. “They’re going to have a good club.”

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