By Tony Tsoukalas / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
After losing five seniors, including three crucial pitchers from last season's 3A state championship team, it did not appear that the Southeast Lauderdale baseball had much of a shot at repeating for a state title.
Now, off to a 14-5 (6-0) start, thoughts of a repeat don’t seem so far-fetched.
“The biggest thing we lost from last year was experience on the mound,” Cooper said. “We had three guys, who we were confident in. They were big arms and won a lot of games for us.
“Dealing with that lack of experience and finding people who could replace the seniors from last year is going to tell the tale for us. We have been able to keep it together so far this season.”
Left-handed junior, Jake Miller has stepped up as the Tiger’s ace this season, leading Southeast in wins this year. Miller threw a no-hitter hitter in the Tiger’s 20-0 win over Newton High School on March 8 this season and almost pitched a perfect game against Choctaw Central on April 1.
“Jake Miller has come into his own as a left-handed pitcher,” Cooper said. “The other night (against Choctaw Central) he had a perfect game going on before we had to take him out due to pitch count. He has really stepped up into that role.”
Senior Dylan Rivers and junior Gage Hagan have also contributed lately on the mound, leading the Tigers to two wins on Saturday.
While the pitching has been solid this season, Southeast has still relied on its bats to carry most of the weight this season. Leading the way at the plate are juniors Mason Irby and Nathan Ross. Both hitters are currently batting over .400 on the year. Irby had three RBIs in the Tigers 14-2 win over West Point on Saturday. Ross provided an RBI single in the Tigers 4-1 win over Pearl later in the day and was also the winning pitcher for the Tigers during their extra-inning win over Forest on Friday.
“Mason has been a good hitter, and Nathan Ross has been on fire for us,” Cooper said. “Nathan has been on fire here lately and has one of the better averages in the district. They've been real hard to get out.
“Behind the plate Gage Hagan has been great for us as well. We have a lot of our key returners from last season, so we have a chance to become a decent offense.”
With Friday’s win over Forest, Southeast clinched the District 5 3A championship. However, Southeast still has unfinished business, as the Tigers will travel to Choctaw Central in hopes of finishing the regular season with a perfect district record.
“It’s too soon to say that we are going to repeat last year,” Cooper said. “But, players continue to step up on the mound, we can possibly win some games and go far in the playoffs.”