The Mooreville High baseball program, winners of eight state titles, has continued its winning ways under new head coach Jamie Russell. In his first season at the helm after replacing the state's winningest coach, Rex Berryman (1,065 career victories), Russell has guided the 2011 Troopers to a 14-4 overall mark and 5-0 record in MHSAA's Division 2-3A through Saturday.
With Saturday night's 13-3 road thumping of Lee County rival Saltillo (7-9), the Troopers extended their current win streak to nine games.
"We're not beating ourselves," said Russell, sounding like Berryman, his former high school coach at Mooreville. "Our pitchers are going out and throwing strikes, and we're making plays behind them.
"We're hitting when we have to a lot of times. ... We're getting the hits when we need them, and we're playing defense..
"The main thing is your defense. If you make plays behind your pitchers, you give yourself a chance to win."
The Troopers committed two errors against Saltillo on Saturday night, but none led to any runs.
With the Troopers leading 6-3 in the bottom of the fifth, the Tigers loaded the bases with one out. Mooreville starter Matthew Pannell (2-1) then got Matt Herring to ground into a 6-4-3 twin killing to escape the inning without any damage.
And a lot of the time in Saturday's non-division contest, the Troopers' defense could sit back as Pannell struck out nine in pitching all seven innings. He only walked two and hit one batter.
Despite giving up eight hits on the night, seven to the top of Saltillo's order - leadoff hitter Kyle Young had three hits, including two doubles; 2-hole hitter Blake Houston had two; and so did Chase Hill batting cleanup - he was effective enough to keep the Tigers scoreless over the final four innings.
Pannell helped himself on the mound with a two-run single to center in the top of the seventh. The big blow in the seventh came on Drew Wheeler's grand slam to left that put the finishing touches on the Troopers' scoring outburst.
Wheeler, who drove in the game's first run with a single to center in the top of the first, capped off Mooreville's 12-0 outscoring of the Tigers through the final four innings. Gary Johnson had a two-run single and Tyler Moore added a two-run double in a four-run fourth inning that gave the Troopers the lead after falling behind 3-1.
n Game summary, Page 2B