By David Wheeler/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
It was a wild last day of the regular season for the 2012 Tupelo Golden Wave baseball team.
Involved in a four-way tie in the four-team Division 2-6A, Tupelo did something it had not done since 1983 – miss the postseason by losing on that last day.
That has perhaps created an edgier, hungrier Wave team, who open the 2013 season today, hosting Lafayette in the Tupelo Classic.
“We’ve talked about it a little, but we’ve turned the page,” said Tupelo head coach Gary Enis, whose Wave finished 18-10 last season. “Last year, we were playing from behind a lot, so this year we’ve got to get on the board early.
“This group has been fun to be around, and I look for good things to happen.”
The good things for Tupelo begin at 6 p.m. today against Lafayette. The Wave hosts Saltillo at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Good things for Tupelo could also begin with an uncommonly swift defensive outfield. Seniors J. G. Miley, Rob McCauley, Bud Goss, and juniors Hudson Roy and Michael Ray basically constitute five centerfielders that Enis can interchange at will.
“We’re wanting to come out and prove ourselves,” said Miley, a Jones County Junior College signee. “We’re definitely loaded, and I don’t think there’s anybody in the state that can compete with our outfield.”
A young pitching staff will benefit directly from the outfield defense, with Roy (3-3) and fellow junior Carter Clayton (4-0), and senior Ben Matthews (2 saves) three of the most experienced.
Enis will start off the season with a senior infield of Matthews at shortstop, William Drummond at third, J.P. Stanzell at second, Kyle Cofer at first, and Michael Hensley catching.
“From a speed perspective, the outfield is great,” Enis said. “As long as I’ve been here, this could be one of the best we’ve had.
“But can they be productive offensively? We’ve got to have our best nine on the field, and we’ve got more than nine that can play.”
With offensive production impacting the defensive alignment, Hensley (.375) and Matthews (.356) are the top two returning hitters. Enis expects sophomore Colton Norrod as a designated hitter in some contests as one of the factors impacting the offense.
“If we can pitch, then we’ll be a good pitching and defensive team,” Enis said. “Our hitters need to be more productive, and we need to utilize our team speed.”
Tupelo Classic schedule
3:30 p.m. – Saltillo vs. Itawamba AHS
6 p.m. – Lafayette vs. Tupelo
10:30 a.m. – Corinth vs. Nettleton
1 p.m – Lafayette vs. Nettleton
3:30 p.m. – Southaven vs. IAHS
6 p.m. – Saltillo vs. Tupelo