Coach of the Year is Loyd Star’s Britt

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, June 12, 2021

Late in the biggest game of the season, a Loyd Star batter, one of the many underclassmen starters on the team, stepped out of the box and looked down the third base line of Smith Field.

His head coach, Jared Britt, was pacing down towards the plate and clapping encouragement as the Hornets took on Taylorsville in the third game of the 2A state semifinals.

Britt locked eyes with one of the least experienced players in his lineup as the two communicated clearly despite the noise from the crowd.

“You are the man,” Britt yelled. “You are the man. Go get it done, I believe in you.”

The young Hornet looked directly at his coach, nodded and stepped back into the box.

If you were watching closely, you could hear in Britt’s voice that his words weren’t empty encouragement and the look in the player’s eyes told you he knew his coach meant what he said.

Loyd Star got better and better as the season went on as they finished 25-10 and lost a tight three-game series to eventual state champion Taylorsville in the MHSAA 2A South State Title Series.

For that success, Britt has been named The Daily Leader All-Area Coach of the Year.

It’s an honor that Britt has won before — he’s coached his alma mater to one state championship and the 2A South State Title Series four times in his ten years as head coach.

None of those teams had the makeup of this one though, with only two senior starters and coming off a 2020 season that saw Loyd Star go 3-5 before COVID-19 ended all high school athletics in the state.

The 2021 campaign began on Feb. 23 with Loyd Star playing Northeast Jones in a tournament hosted by Seminary. NEJ won that game 24-2.

The Hornets almost had as many errors (3) that day as they had hits (4).

Northeast wasn’t some slouch off the street though, they finished 26-5 and were one of the best 4A teams in the state.

Still, the Hornets aren’t accustomed to losing to anyone by 22 runs.

Non-conference games for area teams were severely impacted by wet weather early in the season. Loyd Star only got to play six games against non-division foes before Region 7-2A play began in mid-March.

They went 1-5 in those six non-region games.

Region 7-2A play is when things started clicking. The Hornets swept three-game series against both Bogue Chitto and Wesson to start division play.

Enterprise took game one of their three game set by an 8-7 margin to give LS its first division loss. The baseball rivalry between the schools is one of the best in the area as EAC won the division in 2019 — breaking a four-year run of region titles for Loyd Star.

The Hornets took that loss against Enterprise to heart and bounced back to win 10-0 and 8-0 in the next two games. They then beat Pisgah 11-0 on the road.

The Pisgah win was big for confidence as the Dragons also ended up making it to the 2A state semifinals.

Once postseason play began Loyd Star came in as winners of five in a row including a 1-0 win over a West Marion team that finished 23-5.

Loyd Star swept Philadelphia and Enterprise-Clarke in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Plenty has been written here already about their series win over Puckett in the third round— an improbable walk-off win in game three that was delayed a day by rain.

The Taylorsville series saw the Hornets win 3-1 on their home field before losing 17-0 at THS. Game three was a back-and-forth battle that the Tartars took 9-7.

For all intents and purposes, the series between the schools was the true state championship as Taylorsville rolled over East Union 5-1 and 8-0 in the finals played at Trustmark Park.

The team overachieved the expectations of even the most loyal Hornet fan. So how does it happen year after year for Britt’s program?

“They want to please him as their coach,” said Jared’s brother and top assistant coach, Seth. “They don’t want to disappoint him. He preaches that we’re not a team, we’re a family and no one buys into that philosophy more than him. He treats them as if they were his own sons and that goes for all the guys he’s coached over the years.”

Seth is a head coach himself, winning All-Area Coach of the Year this season in basketball. And while Jared is his younger brother, the older Britt sees a coach worth emulating within his own program.

“As a brother, I can’t speak highly enough about his character and his leadership,” said Seth Britt. “We never have to worry about kids asking when practice will be over once it gets started because they are having fun and love being down at the field with their coaches and teammates.”

Seth coaches first and Jared third when the Hornets are up to bat. When Loyd Star is in the field, you’ll find the pair on the plate side of the dugout with clipboards in hand.

Seth usually crouches down as he barks out what pitch he wants delivered next. Jared stands behind him, looking at what the batter is apt to do while shouting out shifts that the defense might need to make.

Chris King has been in the dugout helping the Britt brothers for the last seven years. He stays close to them keeping official stats that are hugely important in today’s world of pitch count limitations.

King says Jared’s ability to think on the fly is another thing that sets him apart.

“He thinks of every scenario that could come up in a certain situation in about 10 seconds and is then telling the team what they need to do,” said King. “He just understands the kids so well and they respect him for that.”

And if you understand Jared Britt, then you’ll understand he’d probably rather not have 1,000 words written about him. He’d rather the focus be on his players.

Sorry, coach.

Great teams have culture. They have a way that they’re known for playing or preparing or even just how they carry themselves.

Talk to people in the community of Loyd Star baseball and you’ll meet parents with children in elementary and junior high who can’t wait for their sons to one day join the Hornet baseball family and be part of that culture that Britt’s created.