Richton’s recent baseball history is steeped in success.
The Rebels haven’t missed the playoffs since 2004 (and won’t this year, either), and boast three Class 2A State Championships during that period.
Not too many programs can hang with that type of prolonged good fortune.
But the last couple of years – prior to this season – have been a little different. When the likes of JaCoby Jones (now at LSU) and Tilur Smith were suiting up for the Rebels, they were dominant.
And the level of Richton’s dominance when it won its three state titles in a four-year span (2007-10) can’t be overstated.
Now, when guys like Jones, Smith and others graduated, there was a dropoff. Richton was still winning and still winning in the playoffs, but not on the same level as before.
Last season was head coach Michael Banes’ first after taking over for Brandon Davis, who is now the head coach at George County. There are always adjustments for a high school program when a new coach comes in, and often times it can take more than a year for things to settle down.
Richton went 14-14 in Banes’ first season, including an 8-2 mark in division play and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. The year before, in Davis’ last season at Richton and the first without Jones and Smith, the Rebels finished 15-12.
This season, Banes and the Rebels are two wins shy of last year’s win total with 11 games left on the schedule. Richton has lost consecutive games only once this season – a three-game skid early last month – and have won six of its past seven contests.
This year’s Richton bunch is top-heavy with seniors, both in the lineup and on the mound. The Rebels’ top five hitters are seniors, and their top two pitchers are also set to graduate this year.
Plenty of experience
Dylon Stringer and Coke Conway are hitting .509 and .358 respectively. Stringer is also 5-0 on the mound with a 0.41 earned run average, while Nick Carpenter is 4-0 with a 2.19 ERA.
When you’re trying to re-establish your program as one of the best in Class 2A, it certainly helps to have that much experience up and down the roster. It also doesn’t hurt when you’ve got just one hitter that’s struck out more than 10 times so far this season.
Even though Richton has already sewn up a postseason berth, Banes points to next week’s contests against Taylorsville as the biggest of the year. A playoff preview, if you will, given that Taylorsville has lost but one game all season.
Next week’s series will help Banes truly determine whether Richton is, in fact, back or if the Rebels still have work to do to get where they’re trying to go.
Contact sports writer Jason Munz at 584-3107. Also, follow @munzly on Twitter.