The clock is ticking for Hattiesburg’s senior class—a group that’s won 94 games the last four years. About all that’s missing on their near-perfect resume is a state championship. Heading into the final week of the 2018 season, they get another chance to complete that puzzle.
The Tigers (24-10) will face Lewisburg in a best-of-three series for the Class 5A State Championship at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Game one is set for 7 pm on Tuesday.
Having come up short in South State last season after making it to Trustmark in 2016, Hattiesburg head coach Joe Hartfield says his team is humble about getting back and getting another shot to finish the job.
“We weren’t quite good enough last year and had to work really hard to get back here. Even with that, it was real difficult to get through each round of the playoffs. We’re just very humble to be back here. Hopefully we can pull out one more series.”
The big stage will not be a new experience for those seniors—many of whom contributed greatly as sophomores in 2016, including Joe Gray, Dexter Jordan and AJ Stinson. Other seniors on the 2018 team, like Kameron Wells, Jaden Richardson, Brandon Knox, Jay Reedy and Letrelle Johnson, didn’t play a whole lot two years ago, but they were along for the ride.
“We talked about that as a team yesterday, actually. There’s only a handful of kids that were not on that team,” said Hartfield. “Not all of them played, but they were here and able to experience the pre-game, in-game and the post-game stuff that all went on. Hopefully that will help us this time around.
“This is just such a talented senior group that we have. We got unfinished business, and that’s the mentality that we’re taking.”
Hartfield’s Tigers will face a Lewisburg program that’s only about 10 years old. The Patriots (26-7) are led both at the plate and on the mound by senior Bryce Brock, a Mississippi State signee. Brock is 11-0 this season, sporting a 0.79 earned run average with 111 strikeouts in 62 innings pitched. At the plate, he’s batting .443 with eight home runs and 41 RBI.
“They’ve got the Brock kid that’s a top-notch baseball player,” said Hartfield. “I think they feed off of him a lot.”
Behind Brock on the mound is another senior, Cooper Dowell, who is 5-1 in 33 innings pitched. His earned run average (1.93) ranks second on the team.
“From what I can tell, their biggest strength is those two pitchers,” added Hartfield. “However, they’re good in every phase or they would not be here. We got a tough opponent.”
Still, Hartfield says the game plan doesn’t change.
“It’s just a different site. There may be a few other people in the stands, but other than that, you just gotta go out there and play good baseball.”
Game 1-Tuesday at 7 pm
Game 2-Thursday at 1 pm
Game 3 (If necessary)-TBA