GENE PHELPS: Aggies never take easy road

Assistant coach Kyle Nichols embraces Tyler Mercer after Friday's win. (Keith Warren)

Assistant coach Kyle Nichols embraces Tyler Mercer after Friday’s win. (Keith Warren)

PEARL

Starting pitcher Nikolas Wilcher had a brief afternoon – 1⁄3 of an inning – on the mound Friday for Kossuth.

It wasn’t pretty, either. The freshman left-hander gave up two hits, two earned runs and walked two against Sumrall in Game 2 of the MHSAA Class 3A championship series at Trustmark Park – a game the Aggies eventually won 4-3 to clinch their second straight state championship.

“(The umpire) wasn’t calling the outside corner,” Wilcher said. “There were a few I threw I thought were strikes.”

It didn’t matter.

Wilcher won the game that mattered, the one that got the Aggies to this point.

He was the winning pitcher April 22 when Kossuth defeated North Pontotoc 2-0 to eventually clinch the third – and final – playoff spot in Division 1.

“I was hitting my spots that day,” said Wilcher, who finished the season with a 1-0 mound record. “I knew we had to win the game, so I tried to throw strikes.”

It should be noted the Aggies received some help from Belmont, who beat Mooreville the same day to seal the playoff berth for Kossuth.

It’s never easy

Living on the edge in the postseason has obviously worked for Kossuth the last two years.

Last season’s team, which swept four-time state champion Sumrall in two games, needed an 18-inning win in the North finals against Independence to reach the championship series.

“Last year, after the 18-inning game, we had a lot of momentum,” said Wilcher’s older brother, Jacob, a talented sophomore outfielder who has committed to Ole Miss. “This year we worked really hard. We’re a really young team. We’ve got to keep on building and winning.”

The Aggies do have a young team. Friday’s lineup featured four sophomores and two freshmen.

And, it doesn’t seem to matter who’s coaching them – Daniel Threadgill last season and newcomer Trave Hopkins this year.

“Coach Hopkins has really helped us,” sophomore shortstop Connar Boyer said. “He’s taught us the basics, things we needed to know.”

What’s ahead for this budding dynasty? The Aggies have been to the finals three straight years, but lost in 2012.

“Our names are definitely on the map now,” sophomore third baseman Elijah Potts said. “Like our T-shirts say: ‘You can’t beat a team that never gives up.’’’

gene.phelps@journalinc.com