STARKVILLE — Starkville High School’s Tay Odneal and Kierra Jones kept it within the family when it came to choosing their basketball future. As cousins, the Lady Yellow Jackets wanted to go down the same path together. They joined coaches, family members, and friends in the school library Wednesday afternoon in a ceremony in which they signed national letters of intent to play basketball at Meridian Community College.
CALEDONIA — It’s all in the pacing for Jessica Comer. As a freshman last year, the Caledonia High School distance runner learned about heartbreak when she was nudged out at the tape in the 800 meters at the Class 4A state meet. This season, Comer is using that third-place finish as motivation as she builds toward another run at a state title.
Perseverance and commitment are words Cole Vaughan lives by every day. Through family tragedies, injuries, and life-changing diseases, Vaughan has used sports as an escape and a way to reinvigorate himself to face the challenges that life has thrown at him.
There is no substitute for hard work. That might sound like a cliché coaches and players trot out in an effort to explain their success. But that mentality has served Nashedra Barry and Natalie Tate well for the past four years, so they don’t see any reason to stop now.
STARKVILLE — Whether it’s coaching in the Ivy League or in the Southeastern Conference, football is played the same way. Scott Sallach is finding that out as a member of Dan Mullen’s coaching staff at Mississippi State.
STARKVILLE — The Mississippi State baseball team found the momentum Wednesday night it will need in a weekend Southeastern Conference baseball series at Tennessee. The Bulldogs used a walk-off solo home run by junior designated hitter Ryan Duffy in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat Southern Mississippi 7-6 at Dudy Noble Field.
STARKVILLE — O’Neal Wilder hopes the speed that helped him run a state best 48.3 seconds in the 400-meter dash at Carthage High School in 2006 will serve him well as a member of the Mississippi State football team. After a knee injury sidelined him last season, Wilder will try to get back in shape to provide the Bulldogs with a valuable weapon in coach Dan Mullen’s spread offense.
As a sophomore on the East Mississippi Community College golf team, Hal Larkin is making the most of a second chance. Larkin has the second lowest average on EMCC’s team after being academically ineligible to play as a freshman. Larkin, a 2007 graduate of Caledonia High School, has made the most of his last chance to play at EMCC by earning second-team all-state honors. He earned the honor based on being 10th in the state with a 76.7 stroke average.
STARKVILLE — Senior Night is usually reserved for the final regular season home game. However, the Starkville High School baseball team decided to recognize its senior class Tuesday against Columbus in its second-to-last home game. That was just fine with Starkville starting pitcher Colin Olsen, who pitched a complete-game five-hitter to help beat the Falcons 9-4.
Easton Key used to be a distraction on the golf course. Unable to control his emotions, the Lamar School golfer was apt to throw his clubs if a shot didn’t break his way. The outburst would unravel even the most successful round and force his parents to threaten to or to take away his golf clubs. But Key has changed. If something goes wrong these days, he pauses, takes a breath, and chalks the experience up to the highs and lows of the game of golf. Key exhibited that new-found maturity Tuesday when he earned medalist honors with a 73 to lead Lamar School to the team championship at the East Mississippi Community College Invitational at Columbus Country Club.
STARKVILLE -- Finishing second doesn’t exist in Tavaris Tate’s vocabulary. The goal for the Starkville High School senior sprinter is to win every race, whether it is the 100, 200 or 400 meters, or as a member of the 4x400 relay team. Tate stepped up his competitive drive after finishing second to Ja’Vell Bullard in the 400 meters at the 2008 Nike Outdoor Nationals last June.
STARKVILLE — The Mississippi State football team’s offense wasn’t spreading around much fun Saturday in its scrimmage. It is a sign the unit still has a long way to learn the new system of coach Dan Mullen. The offense had moments during a two-hour practice at the MSU practice fields, but the defense made the biggest statement.
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State made sure it wasn’t going to lose a late-inning lead on Saturday afternoon. After blowing a 6-3 advantage in a 9-8 loss to Auburn on Friday night, the Bulldogs knew they had to handle a similar situation different in the second game of the series. MSU scored two insurance runs in the eighth inning and left-handed starting pitcher Nick Routt handled the rest as the Bulldogs beat Auburn 8-3 at Dudy Noble Field.
Ashley Jones had no idea she was going to win the state of Florida’s most prestigious basketball award. Five months ago, she didn’t even know if she would play basketball her senior season at Winter Park Lake Howell High School. But the Mississippi State women’s basketball signee recovered from a liver infection to become the school’s all-time leading scorer and to lead Winter Park (29-2) to the Class 5A state title, its first in school history. Jones’ performance this season helped her earn another honor. On Wednesday, Jones was chosen the Florida Dairy Farmers Miss Basketball winner. The award is voted on by state high school coaches and state sportswriters.
Dillon Hawkins and Austin Stovall gave their baseball teams exactly what they needed Saturday. Unfortunately, Caledonia High School was on the receiving ends of both efforts. In the afternoon, Hawkins threw a six-inning, one-hitter, and Philip Tice had three hits and two RBIs in New Hope’s 11-1 victory against Caledonia in a Class 4A, Region 4, District 4 game at Trojan Field. In the evening, Stovall survived a 12-hit attack and pitched a complete game to lead Columbus to a 13-7 victory.
DeShuni Sanders is ready. Some would argue the New Hope High School senior could play for the East Mississippi Community College softball team today. New Hope High coach Tabitha Beard would have something to say about that, especially with the state fast-pitch playoffs expected to start Monday. Sanders took the final step toward beginning a career at EMCC on Friday when she signed a national letter of intent to join the school’s softball program.
STARKVILLE — Players don’t have problems transferring from one program to another. So while Colby Moore might have changed states moving from Pickens Academy (Ala.) to Starkville Academy, his baseball skills weren’t affected. It didn’t take long for the infielder/pitcher to make his impact on the Volunteers’ program.
SCOOBA — Junior Noel is looking for some immediate assistance to help him bring the East Mississippi Community College men’s soccer program out of the “doldrums.” The EMCC coach found two players Friday who will help him accomplish that goal. Caledonia High School’s Taylor Chisolm and Starkville High’s Eduardo Fumo signed national letter of intents to join a program that went 1-12-1 last season in Noel’s second year as coach.
John Cohen and John Pawlowski are in new situations as head baseball coaches in the Southeastern Conference this season. Cohen already was an SEC coach at Kentucky, but he left and returned to his alma mater, Mississippi State, replacing Ron Polk, while Pawlowski took over for Tom Slater at Auburn. The Bulldogs and Tigers meet this weekend at Dudy Noble Field, and both programs are still trying to win on a consistent basis in the conference. The series takes place at 6:30 p.m. today, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
STARKVILLE — Leon Berry experienced success as a wide receiver at East Mississippi Community College by reaching the second round of the junior college playoffs last season. He hopes that success rubs off on Mississippi State. “We’re going to try and turn this program around,” Berry said. Berry, one of the Bulldogs’ mid-term signees, is adjusting slowly to Division I-A football after being an All-American in junior college.
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