STARKVILLE — Starkville Academy has entered unchartered waters in the Dizzy Dean High School World Series.
After winning Pool D and moving on to the championship round today at New Hope, it”s an experience the senior Volunteers seek to use in a positive way.
“We”re getting closer as a team,” Starkville Academy pitcher Will Fuller said. “Everybody is getting better at their positions and it”s coming together. We”ve improved our game a lot.”
Fuller allowed only one hit and struck out 11 to help start a doubleheader sweep of East Webster, 2-1 and 9-5, on Friday.
The seniors at Starkville High School were not as fortunate on Friday, dropping a doubleheader, 2-1 and 10-2, to Neshoba Central.
It will be the Rockets and not the Yellow Jackets that represents Pool C in the championship round at Columbus today.
Starkville took a 4-14 record into Saturday”s final two games of the World Series, but senior-to-be Cody Berryhill, who had three of the seven hits in the two games, tried to make the most out of the situation.
“When you are out here losing, it”s tough, but you try to find good for everything that happens,” Berryhill said. “Whenever we are down and it builds good chemistry so we”ll carry it over next year and we”ll be able to understand each other better.
“It”s great to win, but I try to take something out of it every time and that”s what I love to do when I”m out here.”
The Yellow Jackets have pitchers Reggie Campbell and Samuel Bigham to throw into the mix next spring to go along with players R.J. Johnson, Chuck Tillery and others.
Campbell believes Starkville returns enough quality players to make another run at a state championship next season. The Yellow Jackets lost in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs this past season.
“We”re going to be competitive for a state championship,” Campbell said. “Having (Johnson and Tillery) back is going to be a blast and I think we can go far.”
Starkville coach David Lane tried to use the summer to get Campbell, Bigham and others the playing time they needed.
Bigham struck out six, walked two, gave up six hits and two earned runs against Neshoba Central, while Campbell worked six innings of relief in the second game.
“I”ve had a great experience out here with them and what I”ve learned is you”ve got to make plays to win baseball games,” Campbell said. “We didn”t do it a lot of times this summer. When you don”t make plays, things don”t go your way.”
Bigham got his feet wet during the spring season, but Lane really began to use him in the summer.
With only two or three pitchers, Bigham believed the chance was there for him to make a mark.
Even though he wasn”t always as consistent as he wanted to be, Bigham got on the mound and that”s all he could ask.
“That got me a good chance to come out, try to throw some games and shine,” Bigham said. “I threw well and had been throwing well.”
Fuller”s outing for the Volunteers came after a week of rest.
He worked six innings of the eight-inning game and only came out when he reached 82 pitches.
Starkville Academy coach Justin Brewer was careful with Fuller and had him on a 75-pitch count.
“He was pitching his heart out, but nothing is worth losing a seniors arm in the summer,” Brewer said.
Fuller also had a single in each game against East Webster, while other seniors Ben Thebaud had a single and a two-run double and Farley Fondren had a single and double in the first game and two singles with an RBI in the second game.
Starkville Academy”s Friday success came at the expense of the Wolverines, which graduated eight seniors from last year”s Class A playoff team.
East Webster has to pick up the pieces with four seniors on the roster and two with any significant playing time.
“This gave them an idea of where they”re at and what they need to do to step up and play,” East Webster coach Anthony Hendrix said. “We”re going to be real young. We”ve got to fill in and it”s open for kids to play.”
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