By Austin Bishop
The Winston County Journal
Veteran high school baseball coach Charlie Smith begins his third tour of duty leading the Louisville High School diamond squad this season and he says he is “happy to be home.”
Smith was the head coach at LHS from 1993-1997 and again from 2001-2008. He returned to the LHS school system last year, but was out of coaching last season.
“The third time is a charm,” Smith said just before the beginning of the season. “I’m really excited to be back. I had the opportunity to go and coach some 6A baseball. Everything is not what you always think it is. It was a great learning experience, but this has been home for me since 1991.”
The Wildcats have finished first or second in their division in 12 of the 14 seasons Smith has served as head baseball coach at LHS while winning 20 or more games in a season 11 times.
Smith said he is still getting to know his team but is excited about the potential the 2014 ‘Cats hold.
“We have some very mature kids who are very talented as athletes,” he said. “We are a very smart team. Eight out of the 26 guys have a 4.0 grade point average.
“We when get baseball smart and learn to do the little things we have a chance to be pretty good,” he said. “We have a tough schedule, but I think you need that to get ready for district. I think you have to play a tough schedule in order to get better.”
The Wildcats are certainly doing that this season, as evidenced by an opening weekend that saw LHS drop its opener to South Panola 6-3, before beating Tupelo 8-4. “You get better by playing good people,” he said.
The Wildcats will be playing in the same region as Nettelton, South Pontotoc, Winona and Aberdeen with the top three teams advancing to the MHSAA Class 3A State Baseball Playoffs.
“Winona is the team to beat,” he said. “They are very talented. They have some really, really good hitters and a top level pitcher.”
LHS returns five starters off last year’s squad, and will be relaying on seniors Channing Wall, Wyatt Roberts, Dalton Hudspeth, Dylan Nicholson, Braxton Wall, Ross Barnett, Grayson Freeman, Darius Miller and M.J. Harrington to lead the way.
Hudspeth, who is expected to handle most of the catching duties, has a career batting average above .400 and has already signed to play baseball with Itawamba Community College next season. Nicholson, another ICC signee, is coming off ACL surgery and will be limited at the start of the season. “He has great speed and super arm strength,” Smith said.
Channing Wall, an East Central Community College signee, is expected to be one of the leaders on the mound for LHS this season.
Roberts blasted a pair of homers and a single and picked up the save in Louisville’s 8-4 win over Tupelo on Saturday. A.J. Triplett had two hits and two RBIs in the game for the winners, while Harrington, Braxton Wall and Miller had a single each.
Braxton Wall picked up the win on the mound, striking out three and allowing just one hit in three innings of work.
LHS was held to just five hits in the 6-3 loss to South Panola, with Miller banging out a pair of doubles and Harrington ripping a double and a single. Braxton Wall also had a single. Channing Wall got the start on the mound, giving up four runs, none of which were earned. He also truck out four, while walking just one.
Louisville was set to play Smithville Thursday and both Mantachie and Hatley on Friday in the Hatley Tournament, before traveling to Philadelphia to take on the Tornadoes on Saturday.