By Austin Bishop
The Winston County Journal
The instant reaction following the last out of Nanih Waiya’s 3-1 loss in the deciding game of the MHSAA Class 1A State Baseball Championship Series on Saturday was one of disappointment.
The Warriors fell just one or two key hits short of winning their third consecutive baseball state title, but instead came away as runners-up at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
While the disappointment was evident, history will reflect that the Warriors put together one of the most amazing three-year runs in the history of Nanih Waiya athletics.
“It has been a great three years,” said Nanih Waiya head baseball coach Tyler Rogers. “These guys are a special group. Our goal going into this thing was to win it again, but I can’t say I’m disappointed in these guys. They worked hard, they kept believing and didn’t quit.”
When the Warriors won the Class 1A title in 2011 it was the first team sports state championship in the history of the school. Nanih Waiya then repeated in 2012 and won seven of its first eight playoff games this season — including a 7-1 win over Greenville St. Joe last Wednesday in the first game of the best-of-three title series — in an effort to three-peat.
The Irish bounced back to beat Nanih Waiya 7-5 on Thursday morning and then 3-1 on Saturday afternoon to claim the title. It was Greenville St. Joseph that Nanih Waiya defeated in three games to claim the championship in 2012.
“We knew they would be ready for us,” Rogers said. “We had some chances to win it again, but a few things didn’t go our way.
On Thursday the Irish scored four runs in the top of the first inning, but it looked as if the Warriors would have a chance to win the game as they scored three in the bottom of the third inning to cut the lead to 6-5. But St. Joe starter Arrington Smith shut the Warriors out the last four innings to take the win.
“I really thought we had the momentum going right there,” Rogers said. “I was surprised we didn’t score any more runs after that. It looked like we had things goings for us.”
Ben Cumberland had a pair of doubles for the Warriors in the game, while Stewart Ball had a single and double and Ty Higginbotham picked up a pair of singles.
Luke Rosamond led Nanih Waiya’s 11-hit attack in the series opener on Wednesday with a double and two singles, while Colby Eaves and Peyton Jones smacked a double and single each.
Eaves was the winning pitcher, striking out seven and scattering 10 hits in posting the complete game win.
Higginbotham pitched a strong game for the Warriors on Saturday, allowing just three runs with only one of them being earned.
St. Joe scored all three of its runs in the fourth inning, with Nanih Waiya scoring in the sixth when Ball drove in Hunter Luke with a sacrifice fly. Luke led NW with a pair of singles in the game.
The Warriors finished the season at 26-8.