By BEN WAIT
For high school athletes, there is nothing better than winning a state championship.
The Starkville Academy baseball team has that chance today.
The Volunteers (23-10) will welcome Magnolia Heights (31-5-1) today to close out the three-game series. Game one is set for 3 p.m. and if necessary, a series-deciding matchup will follow.
The Chiefs lead the Class AAA, Division II State championship one game to none in the best-of-three series.
Magnolia Heights won game one in Senatobia 1-0 on Tuesday.
“They are a very good team,” SA head coach Neal Henry said. “They are very good defensively and they are not going to make mistakes. There is a reason they won 31 games. They are definitely beatable. Anybody is beatable on any given day, especially in this game.”
For Henry and his squad, the game plan is simple.
“The mind-set is to get to game three,” the third-year head coach said. “You can’t play two without winning the first one. We have to have a mindset that we are going to do all we can to win game two. In game three, anything can happen.”
The Volunteers have relied on pitching and defense all year long. They have times when they swing the bats well, but also have times when they go through a drought at the plate.
Hunter Bolin pitched game one and went all seven innings. Drew Pellum gets the start in game one of the day and the if-necessary game will be a pitch-by-committee situation.
“This stuff ain’t easy,” Henry said. “Winning a championship is not easy. It is going to take hard work, it’s going to take a lot of preparation and a lot of focus.”
For seniors Alex Holtcamp, Ryan Mann and Ryan McKell it will be their last day as Volunteers on the diamond. Henry knows they are going to do whatever it takes to force a game three.
“They know it’s their last one,” Henry said. “They just want to get to game three. Once we get to game three, we will be ready to go. They are just ready to win it.”
The game will be played at Volunteer Field on the campus of Starkville Academy. Admission is $7 for all.
“I don’t think we have ever won (a state title) at Starkville Academy,” Henry said. “It would be big for the boys. They deserve it; they deserve one because they have worked their tail off this year. It would be huge for this school to bring a state championship to Starkville Academy.”