Ryan Mann prepares to hit the baseball for Starkville Academy in Wednesday's game against Magnolia Heights. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Playing for state championships is something the Starkville Academy Volunteers have grown accustomed to this school year.
The SA baseball team found itself in the same position in baseball that it did in football and that was playing for the MAIS Class AAA, Division II State Championship.
The Volunteers lost in the State final in football to Washington 20-0 and on Wednesday, they fell to the Magnolia Heights Chiefs 6-1 at Volunteer Field.
It was just another situation where Starkville Academy faced another quality opponent and just didn't have enough firepower to counter what it was up against.
The Chiefs won the series 2-0 after winning game one over the Vols 1-0 in Senatobia last week.
"(Magnolia Heights) is a great team and they were better than us (Wednesday)," Starkville Academy coach Neal Henry said. "They have been better than us two days. We fought all the way. Stuff just doesn't go your way sometimes. You just have to fight through it."
Magnolia Heights didn't waste anytime. It jumped out to a 2-0 lead in first inning.
Jamell Newson led off with a single. Dalton Skelton followed him with a double. A throw from left fielder Stephen Robertson to second trying to get Skelton got away and allowed Newson to score. The Volunteers never recovered the baseball and Skelton trotted in.
"You have to make plays to win these games and (Wednesday) we just didn't make them," Henry said. "It's not anybody's fault, it's the whole team's fault. No individual takes the blame. Stuff just didn't go our way and we made a few errors."
The Chiefs put more pressure on SA in the second inning when Newson hit a three-run home run to right field to give Magnolia a 5-0 lead.
Drew Pellum started for the Vols on the mound, but only lasted 2.1 innings. He was taken out after Newson's home run and made way for Hunter Bolin.
"They are the same team I saw last week," Henry said. "Stuff just didn't go right for Drew in the first inning. When stuff doesn't go right for you, bad stuff happens. That's what happened to him."
The Chiefs scored their final run when Jacob Billingsley grounded out to the third baseman allowing Kevin Barber to score who reached on a single.
SA fought back and in the home half of the fifth. John McReynolds led off with a single. He later scored on a groundout by Pellum.
"We won 14 games the first, 11 games last year and you win 23 games this year," Henry said. "This loss will take a while to get over, but when they look back on it, they will feel like on the baseball field and as a baseball team, they did accomplish something."
Three seniors saw their last game in a Volunteer uniform. Ryan McKell, Alex Holtcamp and Ryan Mann saw their careers come to an end at Starkville Academy.
"This is a great group of guys," McKell said. "We just couldn't get it done."
Between the two clubs, there were only five seniors on the field. All the pitchers used in the series were underclassmen.
"We do have a good team coming back, but you don't ever know," Henry said of a possible rematch next year for the State title. "Sometimes this happens once in a lifetime and sometimes it happens every year. Those three seniors are going to be difficult to replace."
Billingsley earned the win for Magnolia Heights pitching all seven innings.
The Chiefs managed six hits while SA was only able to get three. Bolin, McKell and Colby Runnels accounted for the Volunteer hits.
Magnolia Heights continue the season with a 32-5-1 record. SA ended Henry's third year as head coach with a 23-11 mark.
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