By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
It will be deja vu for Hatley and East Union this weekend. The two are meeting in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A baseball playoffs for the second straight season.
The series begins today at East Union at 6:30 p.m.
Hatley (20-8) advanced last season and lost in the North finals against eventual state champion Bruce.
“They’ve got a tremendous ballclub. They’re well-coached. It’s going to come down to one pitch probably, one play,” East Union coach Chris Basil said. “We look forward to the challenge, but at the same time know they’ve got a good ballclub.”
The two teams are similar and have key pitchers with similar stories, Hatley senior Russ Johnson and East Union senior Cody Bo Dillard.
Johnson, an Itawamba CC signee, is hitting a team-high .417 and has a 1.84 ERA in seven appearances. Hatley coach John Harris says that’s only about half as much as the Tigers wanted him on the mound, but a nerve in his throwing arm kept that from happening.
Both team’s pitching staffs are strong points, Hatley with seniors Hunter Schrock, Josh Carlisle and junior Jonathan Waycaster.
“We match up all the way around, defensively, pitching, hitting… We’re just a lot alike,” Harris said.
East Union (17-12) coach Chris Basil said Dillard (4-3) has progressed well after elbow surgery. The Northeast CC signee has a 1.44 ERA in 43.2 innings of work.
“Cody has done a tremendous job for us. We’ve given him no run support in a couple he’s lost,” Basil said. “At this point, he’s really throwing the ball better the last couple of games, as good as I’ve seen him in his high school career as far as his command.”
Austin Sanders is 5-2 with a 2.47 ERA and has carried a lot of the load for East Union throughout arguably the toughest schedule in the class. Like Johnson at Hatley, Dillard’s .440 leads East Union at the plate.
The division foes split two regular season meetings, each winning on the road. The winner of this series meets the Baldwyn-Calhoun City winner for the North championship.
“People like Cody and Russ, whether something is bothering them or not, are going to give it their best effort,” Harris said. “They’re going to work hard and play as hard as they possibly can and not use excuses.”