Nick Brooks is expected to get the start on the mound for the Yellowjackets today. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
It's all about focus at this time of the year for high school baseball teams to have a successful postseason.
There are enough activities going on as the school year winds down that can take players away from the task at hand which is making a run to the state championship.
The Starkville Yellowjackets begin that quest today in Class 5A when they host Center Hill in the second round at 6 p.m. The two teams meet again in Center Hill at 6 p.m. Friday and if necessary, Starkville hosts again at 2 p.m. Saturday.
After winning Class 5A, Region 3, District 4 with a 7-2 record, the Jackets received a bye and didn't have to play in the first round, while Center Hill had to defeat Jackson Lanier to advance.
Starkville coach Danny Carlisle, who announced his retirement effective at the end of the season, knows it can be a tough stretch for high school players in the sport with so many activities to consider.
"You've got finals and state testing that distracts from it," Carlisle said. "You've got prom and senior parties that parents have put on for them. The weather is good so they are thinking about fishing and going to the river."
Despite those things that can be a distraction, Carlisle likes the way his squad has prepared for the playoffs and it has been that way all season.
"They have come to practice this week with a business-type attitude of let's get our business taken care of and we've got four two-game seasons," Carlisle said. "The guys who have played and started have bought in and know their roles and the younger guys know their roles so we're getting a good mix out of the starters and the subs. Everybody is just excited.
"You start out at the beginning of the year and the goal is to win the division, then you go into the playoffs and you get to the end of the playoffs then it changes from division to state championship."
The Jackets have a 16-9 overall record and have had a good bounce back season after not making the playoffs the previous year.
Carlisle sends Nick Brooks and Nathan Pugh to the mound in games one and two respectively to see if Starkville can extend its season further.
"We went through a spell there where we played extremely well and then we went through a spot where we didn't play well and now we're playing well again," Carlisle said. "Hopefully, if we can get some good pitching out of Nick and Nathan, things will work out good for them."
Brian Jones will be announced at a press conference this morning as the new coach of the Jackets and will lead them into 2013 and beyond.
Carlisle, who has been in the Starkville school system for 35 years and the last 29 as head baseball coach, believes "the future is extremely bright" for SHS in baseball as one era closes and another begins.
"We started playing the 9th graders on the B-team and that gets them some experience," Carlisle said. "The 7th and 8th graders got a chance to shine in the junior high program and they've done well. They finished first in their half of the Golden Triangle Conference and won the tournament over everybody. The young kids are buying in and the older guys are focused. I'm extremely proud of that."
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