Meridian Star

April 9, 2013

Rivalry renewed

By Tony Tsoukalas / ttsoukalas@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     You might as well call Newton County the Hattfields and West Lauderdale the Mccoys –– the two schools don’t ever seem to get along.

    The rivalry between Newton County and West Lauderdale is nothing new. No matter the sport, any time the two schools line up against each other the stakes are high. However, lately the rivalry has been even more amped than usual.

    Over the past year, the Cougars and Knights have traded blows. In October, it was the Newton County softball team who knocked off West Lauderdale in the slow-pitch South State championship series. The Knights returned the favor in January, when the West Lauderdale boy’s soccer team topped Newton County 1-0 to move to the state championship.

    The two rivals now meet again, this time on the baseball diamond, as both teams head into tonight’s matchup with undefeated records in District 5 4A.

    “Any time we play Newton County it’s a big rivalry,” West Lauderdale head coach Jerry Boatner said. “We have played each other for so long, and being so close, the kids all know each other. It’s a great rivalry, and I just appreciate the fact I have been able to be a part of it for so long.”

    West Lauderdale has been nearly unhittable on the mound, as the Knights enter the game with a team earned run average of 1.97. Will Stokes (6-0) has led the way for West Lauderdale with a 1.44 ERA on the mound to go with a .431 batting average at the plate. Junior Blake Anderson has also been hot for West Lauderdale, leading the Knights with a .440 batting average and three home runs.

    The Knights have finished first in the District 5 standings the past 10 seasons. This week, Boatner has stressed the importance of keeping the winning tradition alive to his players.

    “I can’t remember the last time we haven’t won our district,” Boatner said. “We have a had a great tradition, and we have either won it or tied it for some time now. We don’t want to break our sting of championships this year."

    If anyone is going to knock the Knights from their throne, head coach Wyatt Tullos and Newton County might be the team to do it. The Cougars are led on the mound by senior Will Brand, who is 6-0 with a .33 ERA this season. Newton County is equally hot at the plate, boasting a team batting average of .340.

    Four Cougars batters, Reagan Warren, Peyton Cain, Jamoral Graham and Jacob Edwards, all have batting averages of .350 or higher on the year.

    "We have hit the ball pretty well at times," Tullos said. "We have been fortunate enough to play pretty well, and we have put ourselves in a good position in the division."

    The two teams will play tonight at West Lauderdale and on Friday night at Newton County in a series to determine first place in the District 5 standings. If the teams split, the tiebreaker will be determined by run differential in the two games.

    “I’m thinking it’s going to be a close game,” Boatner said. “Whoever makes the fewest mistakes is probably going to be the team that is going to win. They play a lot like us, and it is going to come down to executing a bunt, fielding a bunt or just getting that key hit when you need it.”