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Pleasant surprise for Keyes

MONTICELLO — First-year Lawrence County head baseball coachCory Keyes really didn’t know how good the 2005 Cougars would be.The Cougars lost four starters to graduation and had five startersreturning for the 2005 season.

Keyes, who had been an assistant coach at Lawrence County toChris Clark for two years, was in for a nice surprise.

Lawrence County finished the season 26-7, won the Division 6-4Achampionship, advanced to the second round of the state playoffsand set a school record for home runs. Keyes saw his team set a newbatting average mark of .352.

For his team’s accomplishments, Keyes has been named The DAILYLEADER’S All-Area Baseball Coach of the Year for the 2005season.

“I am very honored and appreciate the honor,” said Keyes. “Inever expected it.”

Keyes, 25, replaced Clark who accepted a full-time position withthe Mississippi National Guard. Clark is currently serving in Iraq.Keyes stays in touch by cell phone with Clark who is always askingabout the athletics at Lawrence County.

“Our goal coming into the year, was to be competitive,”explained Keyes. “I knew from years past, if you could complete inour division, you could compete in the south playoffs.”

Keyes talked about two games that helped show the character ofthis year’s Cougar squad.

“Our first Brookhaven game at our place,” stated Keyes.”Lawrence County has not been able to get over the Brookhaven hump.We beat them 11-1. After that game, we had some confidence inourselves.

“Then we beat Terry 6-5 in 15 innings at our place. We knew wecould play against anybody.”

Keyes had just three seniors on this year’s team and was pleasedwith their contributions. The seniors were Jeremy Williams, MichaelThompson and J.P. Lewis

“Those three guys really set the tone for what is coming atLawrence. Jeremy really stepped it up and was our team leader.

“Michael was a good player.,” continued Keyes. “He had a verygood year. He had a game-winning homer against Terry. J.P. was animportant part of our team He was a role player. He’s one of thebest athletes in the school. He worked hard and knew his role. Hereally helped the team’s attitude.”

Keyes enjoyed working with veteran assistant coach Craig Davisand newcomer Jay Smith.

“I could not have run the program without them,” stated Keyes.”Craig does a great job. He is my right-hand man. Coach Jay Smithwas here a year and worked our catchers to death.”

Keyes said he tries to help steer the players in the rightdirection on and off the baseball field. He wants to help preparethem for life after high school.

“My goal is for them to grow up and be good young men,” Keyessaid. “To be good fathers one day. If they do, then I feel likeI’ve done my job.”

Keyes said he wanted to thank some important people who gounnoticed during the season. “I want to thank my wife, JenniferKeyes, for being there and supporting us,” said Keyes. “She was atevery game. She’s a great follower of the program. And thank theadministration for their assistance. They backed us. One thingabout our school district is that they support our athletics.

“And I’d like to thank the other two coaches wives,” continuedKeyes.

Keyes was pleased with the way the season went and looks forbetter things next year.

“It was a wonderful season from the start to the finish,”praised Keyes. “I never had to question their effort. They neverquit, never got down. It was a wonderful year.

“Winning our first division championship since 1997 was big,”said Keys. “We were 26-7, a new school record for wins.”

Keyes, who teaches technology discovery, is a native ofMonticello. He graduated from Lawrence County High School in 1997.He played outfield for former LCHS athletic director and baseballcoach Tony Davis, from 1994-97.

Keyes attended Copiah-Lincoln Community College and obtained hisbachelor’s degree from Southern Miss. He majored in coaching andsports administration.

Keyes began coaching baseball in 2002. He spent one year withBrookhaven High coach Randy Spring and the Panthers before movingto Lawrence County. He also coaches football and soccer atLCHS.

Keyes is married to the former Jennifer Lambert of Monticello.She is an x-ray technician at Southwest Mississippi RegionalMedical Center in McComb. They are members of Monticello BaptistChurch.