By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
Lee County rivals Tupelo and Verona have developed a habit of meeting in the semi-pro baseball postseason.
“Goodness, I could go back many years,” Tupelo coach Shawn Hairald said. “These communities really get into it and have fan bases that have followed them for years.”
The two teams meet yet again in this season’s Tombigbee Waterway League playoffs with the North Division championship on the line.
Game 1 of the best-of-three series is today at 4 p.m. at Tiger Park on the south side of Tupelo. Game 2 is slated for the same start time in Verona on Sunday, while the Tigers would host a third game, if needed, next Saturday.
The Verona Black Sox defeated Tupelo on the way to winning the league title last year and are confident they can repeat their success.
“The guys are ready and know what they’re up against,” Black Sox coach James Shell said. “They have the talent and are ready to do it.”
Kenard Springer, who was a 2002 MLB draft pick with the Kansas City Royals, leads a power-hitting Verona lineup with 12 home runs. Nate Coleman and Bo Ivy join Springer as catalysts for the Black Sox (18-3) offense.
Pitching wise, Shell will turn to Nathan White to start today. Danny Braswell, a Chicago native, puts his 5-0 record to the test in Sunday’s contest.
Tupelo (16-3) has had some big arms on their staff with Mississippi State pitcher Luis Pollorena and Aaron Greenwood of Ole Miss getting in some summer work. However, both players are unavailable to play this weekend.
Hairald mentioned Jon Paul Barber as a possible starter, but has not set his pitching rotation in stone for the series.
Offensively, Will Hawkins and Zach Chavers have both had solid seasons for the Tigers. Jeremy Carlisle leads Tupelo’s defense in right field.