Ryan Mann (11) of the Vols follows through on his swing and watches the flight of the baseball, while Ryan McKell observes on deck. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Sometimes high school athletes have to wait two or three years for a second chance to play for a state championship and sometimes it doesn't come at all.
For Ryan Mann and Ryan McKell of the Starkville Academy Volunteers, their opportunity comes in the same school year.
After playing for the Class AAA, Division II State Championship in football and losing a 20-0 decision to Washington School, Mann and McKell get another chance at a ring for the Vols in the sport of baseball.
Starkville Academy continues its Class AAA, Division II State championship series against Magnolia Heights today at Volunteer Field. The action begins at 3 p.m.
"Everyone wants to play for a state championship and this is our second one to play for," McKell said. "We want to win this one because we didn't win the football one. We knew we'd be pretty good in baseball and we knew we could make it here. Now we're here so we want to take advantage of it."
It has been a good year for the Vols when it comes to playing for state titles. The highlight was the girls basketball team winning the Class AAA, Division II, the Class AAA and the Overall State Tournaments in three-straight weekends.
Mann said the success of the athletic program seemed to be set up by football as SA came from not winning any games two years ago to playing for a state title this year.
"Football helped turn it around a lot because they saw where we came from and what we went to," Mann said. "It made everyone realize that hard work pays off and you've just got to keep working."
Mann said the football experience helped the Vols get the jitters out of their system so there should be no pressure for baseball.
"Eight of our nine starters played football so we hope to learn from our experience from the football game where everyone was nervous because it was the first state championship game to play in," Mann said.
Starkville Academy baseball coach Neal Henry has watched as Mann and McKell have matured through athletic competition. He's glad to see them carry over the success from football to baseball.
The Vols have to rely on their leadership after losing the first game of the best-of-three series at Magnolia Heights and win a pair today.
Henry said the focus has to be on winning the first game.
"Right now we're trying to get to game three," Henry said. "You've got to win game two to get to game three. That's the whole mindset of the team and they want it pretty bad and they are going to do everything they can to get there."
Alex Holtcamp, the third senior for Starkville Academy, didn't play football, but wants to do his part to help McKell and Mann accomplish a state championship in baseball.
"We're going to try our best to come out with two wins and help these boys who didn't get a ring the first time," Holtcamp said. "I want to take advantage of my opportunity and help them get one in their second chance."
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