By Austin Bishop
The Winston County Journal
With six seniors graduated off last year’s MHSAA Class 1A State runners-up, the Warriors will be looking for some youngsters to step up and keep Nanih Waiya’s recent streak of baseball success alive.
“We are going to be real young,” said NW head coach Tyler Rogers. “We lost six seniors and had another (key player) tear his ACL. We are just about replacing everybody.”
But, he says the fact his players saw what it took to win championships and be competitive on a yearly basis should be a plus for the 2014 version of the Warriors.
“I believe the kids we have know saw how much fun it was winning and they want to get back (to the state championship),” Rogers said. “That will definitely help us.”
The key returnees for the Warriors will be senior catcher Stewart Ball and junior infielder Peyton Jones.
“It helps a lot to have a catcher who has a lot of experience,” Rogers said. “It is one of your most important positions and he’s really good at it.”
Jones will play third and some second and will hit near the top of the order. “He is a guy who can really run and controls the bat well. We can do a lot of different things with him (at the plate).”
While the pitching staff as a whole doesn’t have much varsity experience, senior Jacob Hemphill has the most and the lefty will be asked to lead the young staff.
“He did well for us last year and does a good job locating his pitches,” Rogers said. “We will be counting on his experience.
“We have a lot of pitchers — a ton of them,” he said. “They just don’t have a lot of varsity game experience.That’s the biggest problem.”
Wyatt Ball, who was a key part of the team last year as a freshman, will miss most of this season after injuring his knee in the last football game of the season.
The 2014 baseball season got off to a good start for the Warriors as they swept both of their games in last weekend’s Noxapater Classic, beating Newton High School 20-1 and Philadelphia 16-2.
“We had a couple good days,” Rogers said. “We threw a lot of strikes and only walked three people and made just one error all weekend. That’s pretty good.”
Brady Jones picked up the win on the mound for NW in the first game, while Garrett Miles came in to close the game out. Miles also smacked a double and two singles, while Ball doubled and Isaiah Eiland greeted the first pitch of the season by lining a single to the outfield.
“That was a good way to get it going,” Rogers said of Eiland’s hit.
Hemphill went the distance on the mound against Philly, pitching a five-inning complete game while striking out six and allowing just four hits.
Eiland blasted a homer and single for the Warriors, while Ball tripled, doubled and singled and Jones had a single and double.
Nanih Waiya travels to Ackerman on Friday to take on Kosciusko at 3:30 p.m., before hitting the road to Meridian for three games next week as part of the Rush Invitational. Nanih Waiya will take on Sebastopol at 11:30 a.m. and Forest at 2 p.m. on Monday, while facing Clarkdale at 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday.
The next home game for the Warriors will be March 18 when they host West Oktibbeha to open district play.