The Daily Leader 2022 All-Area Baseball Coach of the Year

Published 9:00 am Saturday, June 11, 2022

Matt White, Brookhaven High

Animated might be a good word to describe what Brookhaven High baseball coach Matt White looks like in the dugout and on the third baseline when his Panthers are playing.

The dictionary defines animated as full of life or excitement and that seems to fit White to the letter.

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His passion for his players is evident and in 2022 the Panthers responded to White’s coaching in winning the Region 5-5A title with a thrilling walk-off victory over West Jones.

For his efforts and leadership, White has been named The Daily Leader All-Area Coach of the Year.

Brookhaven High finished 13-7 overall as they lost games on their original schedule to wet weather early in the season.

The players, fans and coaching staff knew that BHS would be stepping up in a level of play in 2022 with a new division. The Panthers were joined in Region 5 by Natchez High, 5A newcomer Florence and West Jones.

The WJ Mustangs from Soso won the 5A state title in 2019 and have one of the best programs in the classification year-in and year-out.

Region play was divided up into a set of three game slates against each division foe with the matchups spread out over the course of the season.

When the Panthers started region play off with a 2-1 win against Florence and a 2-0 victory over West Jones, they put themselves in the driver’s seat for the region title.

West Jones bounced back the very next night to beat BHS 10-0 and Florence later got revenge with an 8-1 win.

That meant that for Brookhaven to gain its goal of region gold, they’d need to beat both teams in their third meeting.

White’s team went to Florence and knocked out the first task on that list with a 5-1 win on April 8, which set up a huge game on Moyer Field against West Jones on April 18.

In that region deciding game, BHS got a masterful pitching performance from senior hurler Maney Miller.

Tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh, White chose to have Will Moak pinch hit with one out. Moak responded with a single and then moved to second when Bryson Porter was hit by a pitch.

White then called for senior Addison Brady to lay down a bunt and the senior executed it perfectly to load the bases.

That set the stage for junior leadoff hitter Jake Meilstrup to bloop a single over the infield and send home the game-winning run.

The BHS dugout erupted into a dogpile as the coaching staff, including White’s longtime assistant Ernie Triplett, looked on with smiles.

When the celebration settled down, the players took a knee to listen to their head coach.

“Nobody better than us, baby, nobody better than us today,” said White to his team. “You did this — we the coaches, we didn’t do it. You did this today with the way you made plays when you had to and now, we’re region champs.”

With his hands moving to emphasize every word and his smile shining out from under the bill of his hat and his voice rising at the end of each sentence — White was full of as much life and excitement as one man could take.