By Jamie Wachter / Sports Editor
The Meridian Star
Consistent and confident.
That sums up Neshoba Central as the Rockets begin play today in the MHSAA Class 5A slow-pitch state playoffs when Saltillo visits for a 1 p.m. best-of-3 second-round series.
The confident Rockets used their consistency to win Division 2-5A and earn a first-round bye. Now they are just four wins away from a trip to the state championship series.
“We're looking forward to the playoffs, this is what you work for all year and we can't wait to get going,” Neshoba coach Trae Embry said. “If we can stay consistent and hit like we're able to hit the ball, it will at least give us a chance.”
Embry's first season with the Rockets has been a resounding success so far as they begin the postseason 21-4, ranked No. 1 in Class 5A by the High School Sports in Mississippi Website, and with the upper hand against rival and nemesis New Hope. That goes back to the consistency Neshoba has shown.
“Pretty much the key to our whole season has been two things; 1, consistency; and 2, hard work,” Embry said. “Because we really haven't had an up and down year. We've had times where we haven't really played well, but we've played well enough to win. We haven't had any terrible games.”
That hard work has certainly paid off. As did the consistency, even when the Rockets had to shuffle their lineup early in the season to overcome the loss of their pitcher to an injury. Meshay Jimmie stepped in and Neshoba has barely skipped a beat.
That all has led to the confidence the Rockets take into the playoffs where they know they can beat anybody they face. After all, they've already beaten state powers Newton County, snapping a 68-game winning streak last week, Clarkdale and those Trojans, whom they may run into again for the North State championship Tuesday.
“We've gone through some trials and tribulations and have just kept going,” Embry said. “It gives the kids the confidence going in that we can play any team we do play.
“Going into the playoffs, you always want to win heading in. We've won three straight and that helps, but we have had a week off and we've been working hard and hopefully that pays off Saturday.”