Postseason feel: Area teams start playoff action
It’s been one of the more successful high school regular seasons as a collective unit that this area has seen in quite some time in baseball and softball.
Now the postseason is starting to heat up.
Starting today, the playoffs begin in the state of Mississippi with most of the game culminating on Friday. In the area, all six teams made the playoffs with three teams winning its division and five of them with home field advantage in the first round.
Eupora kicks things off for the area Thursday when it hosts O’Bannon in the first round for a doubleheader that begins at 4:30 p.m. Senior night festivities will take place in between games.
The Eagles (16-4) got to this point with a huge turnaround from a year ago when they won just nine games and missed the playoffs entirely. They finished 6-2 Class 2A Region 2 to host in the first round and split with division champs East Webster this year.
For the Wolverines (17-7, 6-2), coach Wes Johnson continues to set the foundation with pitching and defense and he has four pitchers that he turns to consistently that he has the utmost confidence in. Dalton Brown, Carson Gilliland, Walker Johnson and Cody Boland continue their consistent outings on the mound.
His worry is the offense.
“We’ve had multiple guys with very good outings and guys that are consistently throwing strikes,” Johnson said. “Our problem is we haven’t scored runs or haven’t even gotten on base to produce runs. We’ve been inconsistent offensively. Pitching and defense is good, but offense hasn’t been consistent enough. It’s fixing to be a new season, so I think if we overhaul some things, we’ll have a chance.”
Two years ago saw the Wolverines take home Class 2A gold when they won the state championship. East Union ended East Webster's chances in the playoffs a year ago before winning it all and East Union will be the favorites again this season.
Johnson said he likes it that way.
“East Union is the rabbit and everybody else is the fox,” Johnson said. “We’ve been in that situation several times and I think I’d rather our guys not be expected to win. I told them that no one is expecting them to win the state championship so why not us?”
The Wolverines road begins on Friday with a 3:30 p.m. game against South Delta. They’ll play game two immediately following that one with a chance to move to the next round in just one day.
Another district champion from the area comes from Class 3A, Region 5 as Choctaw County finished the year on a seven-game win streak and took the division over Southeast Lauderdale. It was a big moment for coach Andy Young and his Chargers, who will host Crystal Springs Friday at 5 p.m.
“It’s been fun to sit back and be the bus driver," Young said. "This is a fun group. We’re not young and we’re not babies. I look for us to be even better next year, but this has been really fun to watch.”
Elsewhere in the area, Starkville is one of the hottest teams in Class 6A heading into postseason.
After starting the year 5-11, the young Yellowjackets won nine of the last 10 games to finish 14-12 overall and take second place in Region 3.
The late surge earned home field advantage for SHS, which will play perennial power DeSoto Central in the second round if they can win this weekend.
Murrah is up first and it comes to Yellowjacket Field/Carlisle Stadium on Friday at 6 p.m. before hosting Starkville at Smith Wills Stadium on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. If necessary, game three would be played Monday at 6 p.m. in Starkville.
Starkville Academy and first-year head coach Brooks Roberts finished the regular season with a 4-3 loss Oak Hill on Wednesday, but still carry a winning record into the playoffs at 9-8. That record is misleading as the Volunteers were without several starters, who were in the middle of basketball and soccer playoffs for the first few games.
When SA got into Class AAA, District 2 play, it dominated finishing with another district championship and a 7-2 record. Once again, the Vols get the luxury of a first-round bye in the playoffs will spend next week preparing for their potential run.
French Camp will also be competing in the playoffs as it gained home-field advantage in Class A. Lumberton is the first challenge for the Panthers and it will come to French Camp Friday at 6 p.m. Game two will be held in Lumberton on Saturday at 2 p.m.
On the softball diamond, Choctaw County is on the road at Perry Central on Friday and will host game two Saturday at 5 p.m. French Camp will travel to Salem Friday and come back home Saturday for a 5 p.m. first pitch as well.
The East Webster Lady Wolverines (14-5) are continuing through the regular season this week but finished off another dominating Region 4 slate with a perfect 7-0 record. They will make their bid at a fifth-straight trip to the Class 2A State championship starting next week when they meet the winner of Leland and Byers on Tuesday for the second round.
Starkville's Lady Yellowjackets are also playoff bound and will host Tupelo Friday at 5 p.m. to open a Class 6A series.