By Laurence Hilliard
Winston County Journal
Two lifelong friends from Louisville hit the jackpot this year, coaching their high school teams to MHSAA state baseball championships.
Justin Reed coached Tupelo to the Golden Wave’s first title in 6A, the largest classification. Tyler Rogers is the coach of 1A champion Nanih Waiya. It is the third state title for the Warriors, all with Rogers as coach.
“We’ve known each other since we were little,” said Rogers, who added that the two long time friends often text each other during the baseball season and root for the other to succeed.
“We played football together, we played baseball together. Our families knew each other,” Reed said. “I remember him being a first baseman slash outfielder. He was a really good guy, a really good teammate. He contributed a great deal (to the baseball team) as a sophomore.”
They continued to follow the same educational path, both going on to East Central Community College and Mississippi State. They also worked together four summers for an exterminators. “We spent our days treating for termites,” Rogers said.
While pursuing his degree in physical education at MSU, Rogers was a volunteer assistant coach for Reed at Nanih Waiya. “You’re always looking for good help,” said Reed, who pointed out that he was a volunteer assistant at Louisville while student teaching.
Rogers’ knowledge of the game was obvious to Reed when they coached together and he is not surprised that Rogers has been successful. “He worked hard. He wanted to learn. He was adamant about doing things the right way.”
For his part Rogers said,“Justin’s a people person. He gets along with players and parents.”
“I was at Nanih Waiya for two years,” Reed said. “Then I went to Louisville and Tyler took over there (Nanih Waiya). He’s been very successful.”
Reed was the Louisville coach for eight years, followed by three years at South Panola. This is his second year at Tupelo and his first state championship.“There’s nothing like it. We had a group of kids who were willing to buy into our system.”
The Golden Wave won the title with a 3-0 victory over Biloxi in the decisive game of the 6A championship series.
Nanih Waiya won its championship in dramatic fashion, defeating Smithville 1-0 in the decisive game on a suicide squeeze in the bottom of the seventh. That was one of two key moves by Rogers that paid off. In the series opener, a 14-2 Nanih Waiya win, he removed ace pitcher Brady Jones after six innings. If Jones had pitched the seventh, he probably would not have been eligible for the decisive game due to the high school pitch limit rule.
Jones responded with a one-hitter on three days rest.
Rogers lived in the Nanih Waiya school district, but attended Louisville because his mother taught in that district. “That’s another tie,” Reed said. “My mother also taught at Louisville. His mother actually taught me.”
Since graduating from MSU, Rogers has been the coach at Nanih Waiya, where he teaches history. Considering his success, it’s not surprising that other schools have shown an interest in him. But for now, he’s staying with the Warriors.
“The job to get me away from here has not come along. This is my home. My family is from here, my wife’s family is from here.”
Reed made a similar statement. “You never forget where you came from. My patents still live in Louisville and my in-laws live in Louisville.”
Reed received a master’s degree in educational leadership from MSU. He might want to become an adminitrator some day. But for now “I want to coach baseball a long as my body lets me.”