Lee Boyd has either played or coached baseball almost his entire life. But the New Hope High School head coach never experienced anything like what he saw Tuesday night.
After New Hope knocked off Lewisburg 6-2 in the opening game of a best-of-three series in the semifinal round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association North State Class 5A playoffs, Boyd was met by two assistant coaches as he left the dugout following the game’s final out.
The message relayed by the assistants: “The bus is gone.”
Sure enough, the ACR Coach charter bus that carried the New Hope baseball team some 200 miles from the school’s campus to the Lewisburg High School campus in Olive Branch was gone.
“As best we can tell, the bus was dispatched to Memphis to pick up another group,” New Hope Athletic Director Dale Hardin said. “Another group had a bus malfunction and our bus was sent to pick them up.”
ACR Coach did not respond to a message seeking comment by press time today.
As best as Boyd could put together, a group of fifth-grade students from another school were headed to Washington, D.C., when their bus broke down. The New Hope bus was initially sent to allow the students air-conditioned comfort while waiting on their own replacement bus near Memphis.
Under this scenario, the New Hope bus was expected to return before the 2-hour, 10-minute baseball game ended. However, the New Hope bus instead carried the students closer to Washington.
“It looks like lots of miscommunication,” Boyd said. “Like several rounds of it. We were told initially our bus was dispatched to Memphis just for a brief time. Someone else told us the company was supposed to send an alternate bus to our game. Either way, neither happened and we had no bus.
“It was the strangest thing I’ve seen in years,” he added.
Hardin said he believed the school district had issues with this bus line earlier. He also said the company was working feverishly Wednesday to make things right on their end.
After eating a quick postgame snack in the baseball stadium parking lot, the players were divided up amongst parents. Everyone got back to the New Hope campus by 1 a.m. Wednesday.
“The biggest inconvenience was several players had possessions left on the bus,” Boyd said. “From jewelry to phones, it was a difficult process. By the end of the day (Wednesday), we had everything back in our possession. Apparently, people at the bus line thought the bus was clear when it left.
“We didn’t know anything other than we had no bus,” he said.
Meanwhile, the series resumes with a 7 p.m. start today at New Hope. The Trojans can advance to the North State championship series for a fourth straight year with either a win tonight or a win Friday in a potential third game back at Lewisburg.
Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.