It’s hard to imagine that I won’t go to another high school baseball game this season. Man has it been a whirlwind. A 14-inning thriller for the right to go to the state championship seems like a fitting end, but I really had wished it would have ended a different way.
West Marion, which has never won a state title in any sport, played in its second south state championship in the past three years and fought tooth and nail for essentially two ball games Tuesday night against Magee. The Trojans ended up falling, and I’m sure it was painful to endure for the players, coaches and West Marion faithful, but it struck a chord with me as well.
I’m not from here and have no allegiance to any of the schools or athletic programs in Marion County even though The Columbian-Progress and I get accused of having biases all the time. Although I may not have a rooting interest in any of the teams, I do root for the kids and coaches because of the friendships that get built over time.
When you’re around them as much as I am, whether it’s on the field, in the dugout or running into them at school, you get to know them on a personal level and want them to succeed. So to see the pain on Shelby Terrell, Clay Blocker, head coach Derrick Jerkins and others’ faces after the game got to me. They had gave it everything they had and laid it on the line time and time again. This was undoubtedly their best shot to win a state title since the Mark Broom-led team in 1999, and to play 14 innings in a winner-take-all Game 3 on their home field only to come up short was and will be a tough pill to swallow.
However, the legacy of the West Marion seniors deserves to be praised and should live on. You will be hard pressed to find a pitcher as talented as Terrell in Marion County for a long time. It’s not just his plus offerings — there aren’t many high schoolers in small-town Mississippi throwing 91 miles per hour — but his competitiveness and control are bar none. He walked just 11 batters in 81 1/3 innings and struck out 119. Those aren’t even video game numbers. You just don’t see that at any level.
Then Blocker has been the ultimate team guy. It’s hard to quantify the impact a good catcher can have on a team, but it doesn’t go unnoticed by baseball people. Blocker helped manage the pitching staff and controlled the game defensively every time out. He was also a great leader and rallied his teammates when it was needed.
The performance Brett Jenkins gave in Game 3 of the second round against St. Andrew’s Episcopal was one to behold. He pitched the game of his life, shut down a powerful lineup in a complete game and drove in the game-winning run on a near home run.
Robert Patterson, who didn’t even enter the starting lineup until Game 3 of the third round against Wesson, ripped his first hit of the season for a home run then proceeded to have a three-hit, 3 RBI Game 1 against Magee. Logan Fortenberry similarly entered the starting lineup late during the final week of the regular season and delivered a career-high three hits Tuesday. Noel Parrett was replaced in the batting order by Patterson, but he didn’t let that keep him from making steady play after steady play in the outfield.
Then there’s Dalton Raynes, who went swimming in the dirt in the seventh inning Tuesday to beat out a routine ground ball and drove in the two tying runs to force the game to go to extra innings. When coaches talk about giving 110 percent effort, that play in that moment is what they mean.
The final senior, Matthew Morgan, was right there picking up his team every time it was needed.
The Trojans may have fell short of the goal, but they had a great year. I just wanted to tip my cap to them and thank them for a fun ride.
Reach Sports Editor Joshua Campbell at (601) 736-2611.