Somehow, I finished up my 2008 baseball preview (see Friday’s Journal). Take it for what it’s worth, especially the preseason rankings. But John Pitts did an excellent job designing the page! Never mind the empty box in the Tupelo story; that’s where the Tupelo-Lafayette County game story was to go.
These preseason rankings always irk me. Gotta do ’em, and it’s kind of fun, but it is so hard to gauge a team’s prospects. Well, usually. Tupelo is gonna kick bootie this year, obviously, but as for the rest of them, who knows?
• No. 2 Tishomingo hit .329 as a team last season. Not great by high school standards. But that pitching staff looks great.
• No. 3 Oxford’s roster is bereft of big names, but that doesn’t always matter. Coach Bradley Roberson calls them “gritty.”
• No. 4 New Albany needs better plate discipline, according to coach Curt Fowler. However, he’s got five kids who have started since eighth grade. How many 4A teams can say that?
• No. 5 Nettleton has a new coach with much to prove. They also lost some big bats (Will Hawkins, Cody Brownlee, et al.). But pitching rules in high school, and the Tigers’ top three hurlers are back.
• No. 6 Itawamba AHS has but two starters back, and you’re probably wondering, “Well, Pontotoc has three, so why aren’t the Warriors ranked?” Fair question, but IAHS has more pitching. (See Nettleton comment.)
• No. 7 Mooreville lost one of the area’s most dominant arms when Josh Chism graduated. But the Rex Berryman Baseball Factory does not rebuild …
• No. 8 East Union, according to coach Chris Basil, still runs the bases like panicked squirrels (my metaphor, not his). I doubt it’s that bad, but with so much experience returning, I think the Urchins will figure it out.
• No. 9 South Pontotoc didn’t even make the playoffs … because it lost to eventual state champ Nettleton in that ill-conceived division tournament. One opposing coach has told me that the Cougars expect this to be “their year,” whatever that means, and they have the tools to do great things.
• No. 10 Houston was 10-14 last season. Can they really be that good? Sure. Area coaches have raved about the Hilltoppers, who boast perhaps the best catcher in NeMiss, senior Ricky Ware.