PEARL — Booneville has had a week off to prepare for its MHSAA 3A state championship series with Magee.
And it was needed time off as players and coaches have had a few extra days to rest and relax while, at the same time, keeping fresh on the field with daily practices.
Game one of the best-of-three set is scheduled to begin next Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Trustmark Park in the Jackson suburb of Pearl.
It doesn’t matter who plays who this time of year, every team is good. Because of that, the fact that the Blue Devils are ranked in Mississippi’s Top-10 (No. 8) while the Trojans check-in at No. 25 means absolutely nothing to either squad.
Fact is, Magee has a better overall record (27-5) than Booneville (24-10). Yes, numbers matter in baseball. The sport is supported by numbers and players, as well as coaches, keep track of them. But at the end of the day what happens on the field is the key to winning or losing, not what the numbers might say.
With that in mind, the Booneville/Magee title series should be a close and competitive one if the numbers have anything to do with it.
Starting with the Region 6-3A champion Trojans, they shared the division title with St. Andrews Episcopal as both compiled 7-1 league slates. Their only losses were against each other but Magee was awarded the Region title based on run differential as their 10-2 win trumped the Saints 2-1 victory two days later in mid-April.
The South 3A champions enter the title round as winners of nine in a row as well as 16 of their last 17. Head Coach Allen Eubanks’s lineup is filled with elite hitters as the Trojans sport a team batting average of .397. Three seniors lead the way with Brennon McNair the top hitter with a .537 average and 12 home runs. The University of South Alabama signee also has 12 doubles and is the ace on the mound. Adam May is second with a .521 average followed by Chandler Pittman at .500. Fans of 3A football may remember that name as Pittman was the star quarterback for the Trojans state champion football team that defeated Noxubee County.
On the mound, the aforementioned May is a hoss with a 9-1 record and a fastball that tops out in the 86-87 mph range. He has 86 strikeouts with a team-leading 1.15 ERA. McNair is the game two starter and sports a 6-1 record with 61 strikeouts and a 1.33 ERA.
Magee is a team that will be active on the basepaths as they have 129 stolen bases in 145 attempts. Senior Cayden Bridges leads the steal-troops with 25 in 27 attempts while McNair has swiped 23 in 25 attempts. The Trojans have four players with double-digit steals on the season.
The MHS defense has fielded at a .932 clip this spring with 52 errors in 32 games played.
Magee’s five losses have come to Germantown (16-4), Mendenhall (9-5), Sumrall (9-1), St. Andrews (2-1) and Wayne Academy (6-4). They score at a 10 runs per game clip while allowing just 3.5.
“We are blessed with athletes in our prime positions,” said ninth-year head coach Allen Eubanks. “All five of our seniors have signed to play collegiately in either baseball or football. We play a tough schedule and it normally comes down to us and St. Andrews just like this year. From what I know about Booneville they rely heavily on a really good and experienced pitching staff so we will have to swing the bats well.”
Booneville, in a similar fashion, arrives in Pearl riding a 10-game win streak having won 13 of their last 14. The Blue Devils finished in the No. 2 slot in Region 1-3A with a 7-3 record, winning the tiebreaker with 7-3 Kossuth by sweeping the Aggies in the regular season.
Coach Kevin Williams, in his sixth year leading the BHS program, has a lineup that averages .283 as a team. Senior Jackson McCoy is by far the Blue Devils’ top hitter, average-wise, with a .542 BA. He also leads the squad with six home runs and 43 RBI. Sophomore Ben Sandlin and senior Kyle Church come in at 2-3 in the pecking order at the plate with respective batting averages of .364 and .343. Church and McCoy are the team co-leaders in doubles with 14 apiece.
Booneville has recorded 105 stolen bases as a team with McCoy leading that category with 19 while seniors Hayden Donahue and Cruz Taylor follow with 13 each.
On the mound, Donahue has been considered the No. 1 starter most of the season, although Williams indicated he hasn’t decided who will get the ball in game one against the Trojans. Donahue has a 6-3 record and leads BHS with 73 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.18. Junior Ben Davis has posted a 7-3 record on the mound with a 2.90 ERA and 53 “K’s”. However McCoy has the best overall record, checking in with an unblemished 8-0 mark and a sub-one ERA of 0.62. He’s also second with 61 strikeouts.
The Devils field at a .917 team clip and have committed 72 errors in 34 games played. They have recorded 20 double plays this season.
“We’ve been pretty steady all year, with some peaks and valleys, but heading to Pearl we will have to perform well in all three phases: pitching, hitting and fielding,” said Williams.