By Gene Phelps
TUPELO – Tupelo baseball coach Gary Enis has a lot of faith in his senior-dominated lineup.
“We’ve got seniors all over the field,” the Golden Wave’s 11th-year coach said. “These seniors didn’t make the playoffs as sophomores. Last year they won the division, but lost in the first round of the playoffs to Northwest Rankin.
“They are more focused this year, more determined to take that next step and go deeper into the playoffs.”
One of those key seniors is center fielder Michael Ray, who led the team last season with his .482 batting average and 24 RBI. His .563 on-base percentage has Enis considering using him in the lead-off spot.
“He’s an exceptional athlete,” Enis said. “He can do it all for us … hit, run the bases, cover ground in the outfield.”
Ray will also be the backup to catcher William Ikerd, a junior in his first year as a starter.
Four seniors are slated to start in the infield – Ty Wheeler, first; Chase Cernigliaro, second; Carter Clayton, shortstop and Reed Taylor, third. The remaining outfielders are seniors Luke Weeden in left and Matthew Miley in right. Junior Carson Roberts and sophomore Walter Goss will also see infield duty.
Hudson Roy (4-5, 4.14), a senior left-hander, returns to anchor the pitching staff. He’ll be joined by sophomore left-hander Jason Garrett and senior right-handers Clayton, Weeden and Wheeler.
“Roy had some tough luck last season,” Enis said. “He lost some close games. We need to do a better job supporting him.”
Enis has been impressed with Garrett, younger brother of former Tupelo record-setting quarterback Chris Garrett.
“He’s a talented young player who will see time on the mound and on the field,” the coach noted.
Tupelo finished 19-11 last season and won Division 2-6A. This season, 6A newcomer Hernando replaces Columbus and joins Grenada and South Panola in the league.
“I think we’ll have a more balanced lineup,” Enis said. “That balance starts with our starters being productive. We want consistency in the lineup before we start division play.”