Eupora's task will be tough with Hamilton
In Lee Berryhill's tenure as the head baseball coach at Eupora High School, he's experienced it all.
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He has won the big one. He has come up short. He has led the Eagles through ups and through downs.
So it should come as no surprise that there seems to be a sense of calm about Berryhill as the Eagles begin the third round of the Class 2A playoffs at 5:30 p.m. tonight, hosting Hamilton.
Even facing one of Mississippi's highest-regarded programs, Berryhill understands that at this juncture of the season, it's simply about players hitting the field and executing.
"The key for us, like I tell the guys before every game, is to throw strikes, make routine plays and put the bat on the ball," said Berryhill. "That gives us a chance."
Fundamentals could indeed be the deciding factor in a best-of-three series against the Lions.
Year-in and year-out, Hamilton is virtually always in the postseason picture, largely due to their consistent play.
"(Hamilton) is traditionally always good," said Berryhill. "They seem to always have one standout pitcher for the most part. They put the ball in play and make routine plays. They'll put pressure on your defense and come at you on the mound."
No matter how well the Lions pitching staff is over the course of the series, the Eagles proved in their second-round win over Baldwyn that they are capable of holding their own from the mound.
Jeremy Wright, Cain Young and Charles Morton all contributed as hurlers against the Bearcats and Berryhill expects more of the same against the Lions.
"Jeremy, we've relied on him all year and he's carried us a long way, along with Cain Young," said Berryhill. "When Charles throws strikes like he did against Baldwyn, that gives us three guys we can run out there on the mound to give us a chance."
Offensively, Berryhill says Eupora's strategy against Hamilton will simply be to make the Lions defense make plays.
"We tell our guys to find the barrel head," said Berryhill. "Depending on what type of pitcher we're facing, we may have to spread out and get a little wider on some, just depends on a pitcher's velocity and curveball. The pitching you face dictates what you do.
"But you just want to stress to make contact and put the ball in play."
As Berryhill sees it, doing those little things is what will make the difference against such a solid opponent.
"Hamilton has good pitching, they'll put the bat on the ball and they'll make routine plays," said Berryhill. "We'll have to match them play-for-play and at-bat-for-at-bat. We'll just battle to the end and see where we're at."
After tonight's contest, the series will continue on Saturday in Hamilton with a 1 p.m. game.
If necessary, the third game of the set will be played at 5:30 p.m. Monday in Eupora.
The winner of the series will move on to the North State finals against either Mantachie or East Webster.