By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
Hatley seniors Russ Johnson and Hunter Schrock have been so close to Jackson the last two seasons they could smell it. But the Tigers two chances at a Class 2A state championship series came up just short.
The duo is finally going to the capital city, for Saturday’s D.M. Howie Crossroads Diamond Club All-Star Game at Smith-Wills Stadium.
“It is a big deal for them, a good reward they’ve earned,” Hatley coach John Harris said. “It’s good for them to get that opportunity. They have worked really hard to get to Jackson to play for a championship, but didn’t get that chance. I think it’s bittersweet. “
Johnson, a Itawamba CC signee, is one of 14 Journal area players making up the 18-man Class 1A/2A/3A North roster. Alcorn Central’s Jeff Wood and Kossuth’s Daniel Threadgill are coaching the small-schools team.
“It’s been fun, kind of laid back and relaxed so far,” Johnson said. “I just want to prove that if you come from a small school, you’re still capable of playing college ball.”
The Hatley duo is finishing with an all-star reward after helping Hatley from a struggling team to contender the last two seasons, the first two for Harris.
Kossuth’s Josh Whitaker returns to the city a week after winning the Class the 3A state championship a little down the road in Pearl. Class 2A state runners-up East Union sends two players, Cody Bo Dillard and Duck Pratt.
“They all know the game,” Threadgill said. “It’s really easy. We just put them in positions, make a lineup out and let them go play.”
The 4A/5A/6A North team has four area players – Tanner Poole, Amory; Ben Foster, New Albany; Hayden Cummings, Pontotoc and J.G. Miley, Tupelo.
Whitaker is still looking for a college baseball opportunity. The Aggies lone senior struck out 114 batters in 83.1 innings this season and finished with a 1.76 ERA.
“I think his stock went up late in the playoffs, with him pitching and playing a key role” Threadgill said.