Meridian Star


April 30, 2014

Knights ready for round two

COLLINSVILLE —     Amid high expectations, the West Lauderdale High School baseball squad is seeking to avenge an early postseason exit after falling in the quarterfinals to St. Stanislaus High School in 2013.

    The Knights return a bevy of talent off that squad, including senior leaders Blake Anderson and Will Stokes, among others.

    “It’s very important,” West Lauderdale coach Jerry Boatner said. “They’ve been there before and they know what it is like. This is nothing new to them. We have talent, we have experience and we have confidence. If we stay injury free, we have a good chance of going all the way.”

    After compiling an impressive 24-game win streak earlier this season, West Lauderdale saw their streak snapped after falling to New Hope High School, 4-2, April 24.

    Yet the loss could prove to be a positive for Boatner and his squad as the pressure of an undefeated season is alleviated.

    “I definitely think it relieves the pressure,” Boatner said. “We had to worry about winning or losing because of the winning streak. Four or five-game winning streak is not too bad, but when you get over 20, that’s a pretty good streak. It definitely puts pressure on you, I think we responded well and got that bad taste out of our mouths.”

    With a regular season finale win over Taylorsville High School, 2-1, Wednesday, the Knights will look to build on a new streak entering their second round matchup of the MHSAA Class 4A playoffs against Itawamba Agricultural High School, set to begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at West Lauderdale.

    “We expect a good game from them,” Boatner said. “I heard they have a pretty good team.”

    The Indians are led by its stellar pitching staff, including seniors Dylan Taylor and Lucas Brown, who boast a combined 15-2 record while sporting a 0.97 and 1.47 earned run average, respectively.

    “We have to hit the ball,” Boatner said. “Good pitching beats good hitting. And if we face a good pitcher, we’re probably not going to hit the ball well. What we have in our favor, is that we can play small ball. That’s our game, and thatís how most of the games are played in the playoffs.”

    Ultimately, the playoffs begin a new chapter in the season that will come down to which team is able to best control its mental fortitude.

    “There’s not anything like the playoffs,” Boatner said. “It’s a different season, everything is better. Better pitching, better crowds, better enthusiasm throughout. You just have to be able to raise your level play one notch.”

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