Ready or not, it is time for the boys of spring – well late winter, anyway – to take the field in earnest.
The high school baseball season is upon us, and it has already been an eventful one, owing to the tornado that ripped through Hattiesburg on Feb. 10.
That storm destroyed Harry Breland Field at Oak Grove High School and heavily damaged Smokie Harrington Park on the Hattiesburg High campus, meaning those two teams will be playing “home” games at places like Southern Miss, William Carey and Jones County Junior College.
But you can’t keep ball players down, and already coaches, players and fans have put the unpleasantness behind them and are ready to get down to business.
Teams in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools have played a game or two this week, and the public schools can officially play their first games that count on Friday.
This is always an exciting time, because high school baseball is extremely popular in the Pine Belt, second only to football in the hearts of sports fans, and the success of local teams is off the charts.
Legacy of victory
If the form holds true, there will again be at least one team from the Hattiesburg area that will be hoisting a gold state championship trophy at Trustmark Park in May, and usually more than one team will take home a championship.
Last season, Oak Grove won its 10th state title, sweeping Madison Central for the Class 6A crown, and Purvis won for the third time, taking the Class 4A championship in a hard-fought three-game series with Lewisburg.
The year before that, it was Petal, Columbia and Sumrall that captured titles.
All of those teams figure to be in the hunt for championship honors again when the playoffs get underway in late April, but there are some other teams to keep an eye on, notably Hattiesburg in 6A and Richton in 2A, both of which are senior-heavy.
Ready to play?
A lot of teams tried to measure their progress last weekend in jamborees at various locations, but it was tough to gauge, because of the cold temperatures and windy conditions that prevailed on Saturday.
As Forrest County AHS coach Brad Hankins put it, “we were just trying to get on the bus,” as the Aggies played Columbia deep into the frosty night in the last of eight four-inning scrimmages at Pearl River Community College.
Hankins, for one, will get a pretty good idea of where his team stands when it faces Sumrall and Petal this weekend in the season-opening FCAHS Classic at Brooklyn.
Win or lose, this really is the most wonderful time of the year, when spring is right around the corner, and the sounds and smells of baseball are in the air.
Contact Stan Caldwell at 584-3137.