Meridian Star

Sports

May 22, 2014

West Lauderdale eager for 13th state title

COLLINSVILLE —  Neil McKeithen recalls his freshman year at West Lauderdale High School in 1978, when head coach Jerry Boatner won his first state championship.

So Neil, the father of senior Knight Colton McKeithen, said he is eagerly hoping West brings home its 13th state championship when the Knights play Purvis High School for the MHSAA Class 4A state championship. The first game of the best-of-three series begins at 1 p.m. today at the Mississippi Braves’ Trustmark Field in Pearl.

“It’s an awesome feeling seeing (Colton) and his team’s abilities,” the elder McKeithen said.

Neil was one of many parents and supporters on hand Wednesday evening at head coach Jerry Boatner’s house for a pre-series get-together. The party served as a way to honor the players and send them off on their quest for a championship. Though he’s told his son to relax and have fun in today’s game, Neil said he knows Colton and his teammates are in good hands as far as advice is concerned.

“I don’t have to tell him anything,” Neil said. “He has the best coaching in the state. They know what to do.”

Linda Boatner, Jerry’s wife, said she was thrilled to serve food and act as a host to so many players and their families and friends Wednesday.

“We love young people, and we have a good group of boys — all of them, not just the seniors,” she said. “It’s just a great time of the year, and we love getting the families together. When you have great players, great young men and great families, it’s easy to win with them.”

And that family atmosphere is what’s allowed the West program to have so much success over the years, Linda added.

“You have to have that family atmosphere — you have to have that support group,” she said. “The players have talent, but it’s the parents who have been that support group over the years, pushing them (to excel). That’s what it’s all about.”

Kevin Cheatham, principal at West Lauderdale, was on hand Wednesday evening and said he’s enjoyed watching the Knights do well in baseball in his 14 years of living in Collinsville.

“It’s been a great experience,” Cheatham said. “This is a great community and great group of supporters, and Coach Boatner runs a first-class program.”

Having a winning program in baseball has a ripple effect throughout the rest of the school, Cheatham said.

“It just adds more pride to the school,” he said. “It boils over into the classroom, where they take pride in their schoolwork. Both academically and athletically, there’s a tradition of excellence. Everyone has high expectations, from the parents to the administrators.”

Game 2 of the series will be at 7 p.m. Friday. Game 3, if necessary, will play at a time and day to be determined.

 

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