By Drew Kerekes \ The Meridian Star
The Meridian Star
MERIDIAN — Jerry Boatner remained composed for the most part, but he couldn’t help but tear up when he thought of his dad.
Boatner and the West Lauderdale High School baseball team topped Richland High School, 13-2, in the Rush Invitational Wednesday night, giving Boatner 1,069 wins — the most in Mississippi high school history.
“First of all, I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and I want to thank my daddy (Jim Boatner),” Boatner said after the historic win. “He was so tough on me, so tough on me and I didn’t understand. But he made me the man and the coach I am. I didn’t have the sense enough to know it until he died.”
Win No. 1,069 breaks the previous record set by former Mooreville High School coach Rex Berryman. It comes in year 46 of coaching for Boatner, who said afterward he wishes he could coach baseball 25 more years.
“I just feel blessed to be at West Lauderdale and to coach so many wonderful players,” Boatner said. “I’ve had some great administrators who allowed me to coach my way and didn’t tell me how to run the program. It’s an awesome feeling to be No. 1 at something.”
As for what’s kept him going so long, Boatner said he never grows bored with the game of baseball, and he’s constantly striving to improve his coaching abilities.
“I enjoy every phase of the game except cutting kids,” Boatner said. “I have such a passion for the game, and I can’t wait every morning to go to work. I love working on the field, and I love coaching, even after 46 years. I love studying the game, going to clinics, watching tapes.
“I keep telling folks, I’m better this year than I was last year, and I’ll be better next year, because I’m not satisfied with the knowledge and the way we do things. I’m always trying to get an edge on people.”
Colton McKeithen was the winning pitcher for the Knights, pitching three innings and surrendering two runs on three hits with three walks and two strikeouts. McKeithen’s father, Neil McKeithen, played for Boatner from 1978-81.
“I don’t know how many wins he had back then, but for me to be playing for him now when he gets this milestone, it just feels great to me,” McKeithen said.
West Lauderdale took a 4-0 lead after the first inning and tacked on two more runs in the second inning to go up 6-0. Richland cut the lead to 6-1 in the top of the third, but the Knights tacked on four more runs in the bottom of the frame.
In the top of the fourth, Richland scored its other run of the game, making it 10-2. West Lauderdale scored another three runs in the bottom of the fourth, then the Knights blanked the Rangers in the top of the fifth. The game was called after that due to the 10-runs-after-five mercy rule.
Bryson McRaney took the loss for Richland.
Fred Franklion was 2-for-4 for the Knights, and Daniel Hill finished 3-for-3. Blake Anderson went 4-for-4 with a home run and a double. McKeithen went 2-for-4 with a double, and Will Stokes finished 2-for-4 with two doubles.
“I think the boys wanted it for me,” Boatner said. “They said, ‘Coach, we’ll go get it for you.’ It was one of the best games we played, to be honest with you.”
The Knights (7-0) will return to action Tuesday in their first conference game as they play host to Kosciusko High School.