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Region tournaments begin today

“Let’s play ball.”

Those sentiments, expressed by Brookhaven head baseball coachRandy Spring, reflect the general opinion of coaches with teams inthe MHSAA state baseball playoffs. Practice is completed. Scoutingreports have been scrutinized and players have been analyzed.

At Monticello today, Brookhaven plays St. Stanislaus at 4 p.m.and Lawrence County faces Poplarville at 7 in the opening round ofthe Class 4A Lawrence County Regional at Jimmie Davis Park. It’s adouble-elimination format. Today’s winners play at 12 noon Fridayand the first-round losers play at 3.

A third game will be played Friday at 6 p.m., featuring thewinner of the 3 p.m. elimination game and the loser of the 12 nooncontest. If necessary, two games will be played Saturday, with thefirst game starting at 4 p.m. Only regional champions advance tothe next round of the state playoffs.

It’s a similar format in other opening round regionals. ThreeLincoln County teams are on the road as Loyd Star plays NorthForrest in the Class 2A St. Andrew’s regional in Ridgeland,starting at 4 p.m. In Class 1A, Enterprise plays Ethel in theNatchez Cathedral regional and West Lincoln makes the 4-hour driveto East Webster in Maben to play the host Wolverines tonight at7.

Wesson plays in the 2A Lumberton regional, meeting Richton at 4p.m. Lumberton meets McLaurin at 7.

Franklin County is at Columbia to play Southeast Lauderdale at 4p.m. in the Columbia regional. North Pike plays No. 1 seed and hostNewton County tonight. Hazlehurst, No. 3 seed in Division 6-3A,faces No. 2 Greene County in the Richland regional.

Panthers vs. St. Stanislaus

According to Spring, his Ole Brook Panthers 23-5) face a strongchallenge in the St. Stanislaus Rock-a-Chaws.

“I know St. Stanislaus has two pretty good pitchers,” saidSpring. “Both throw in the mid 80s, with good sliders.”

Spring’s Panthers won the state championship in 2004. Theyfinished third in the Division 6-4A race behind Lawrence County andTerry.

“I know they (St. Stanislaus) have been getting reports on usand we’ve been getting information on them,” said Spring. “They’veheard about our pitchers and we’ve heard about theirs. Now, it’stime to play ball.”

The Panthers are led by senior right-hander Brandt Hinton (7-0),a Copiah-Lincoln Community College signee. Hinton has compiled astingy 0.34 ERA. In 154 innings, the 6-foot-5 Hinton has struck out54 batters and walked 6.

Sophomore southpaw Paxton King (4-2) has a 1.28 ERA. Josh Coone(6-2) has a 1.96 ERA and Cole Newell (5-0) 0.81 ERA.

At the plate, Ole Brook is led by Newell who is batting .474. Heis followed by designated hitter Garion Crockett (.400),secondbaseman Elliott Warren (.387), King (.385), catcher Mitch Pappas(.370), shortstop Zach Watson (.360), and Hinton (.333).

The Panthers are batting .374 as a team and have hit 18 homers.Crockett and Coone have slugged 6 and 5 homers respectively. Pappashas 3 homers.

LCHS vs. Poplarville

“Poplarville is a real scrappy ballclub with good pitchers whothrow a lot of breaking stuff,” said LCHS second-year head coachCory Keyes. “They finished fourth but they beat some of the teamsahead of them.”

As a team, the LCHS Cougars (24-3) are batting .346. They areled by senior centerfielder Marty Ballard with a .438 average.

First baseman Nick Jackson (.423), leftfielder JohnathanStephens (.407), middle infielder Joseph Evans (.361), thirdbaseman McKenzie Woods (.342) and rightfielder Taebyus Smith (.341)are among the leaders in batting average.

As a team, the Cougars have hit 25 homers. They hit aschool-record 31 last season.

On the mound, Jake Russell (8-0) leads the Cougars with a 1.22ERA. Trent Hartzog (5-2) has a 2.82 ERA. Evans (5-0) has a 3.50ERA.

Russell has accounted for 90 strikeouts, followed by Evans with61. Hartzog has 46 Ks.

“We are looking forward to hosting it,” said Keyes. “There willbe some good teams here playing.”

Class 2A

Coach Jonathan Breakfield’s Hornets (16-7)

face a stiff test in North Forrest. The Hornets finished thirdin Division 6-2A. No. 1 seed St. Andrew’s faces Seminary at 7.

Wesson (17-7), coached by Hugh Knight finished second to St.Andrew’s in the region race and makes the long ride to Lumberton.Richton is the No. 3 team out of Region 8-2A.

Class 1A

Enterprise (11-9) finished strong under first-year head coachSeth Lofton. The Yellow Jackets are the No. 3 seed in Division7-1A. Natchez Cathedral, the 7-1A champion, plays Noxapater intonight’s second game.

West Lincoln (6-9), directed by first-year head coach KeithCline, finished fourth in 7-1A. East Webster is located 21 milesnorthwest of Starkville.

Class 3A

Franklin County (10-13), No. 3 in Division 7-3A, plays a strongSoutheast Lauderdale squad. FCHS head coach Johnny Daves hasannounced his resignation and will become athletic director atDurant next year.

Host Columbia plays Choctaw Central at 7.