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Maroon Tide opens playoffs

By CURTIS ROCKWELL

Item Sports Editor

Last season, as a number four seed, Picayune pushed a number one seed in East Central to the brink of elimination in the first round of the Class 4A South State playoffs.

The Hornets not only survived the Maroon Tide, but went on to win the state championship.

Starting tonight, Picayune, now a number one seed, hopes to not only get out of the first round against a four seed in Mendenhall but follow the same path to Trustmark Park that East Central did last season.

The Tigers host the Maroon Tide tonight at 6 p.m., to open the best of three series. Game two will be played at 1 p.m., Saturday in Picayune with game three, if needed to follow 30 minutes after the completion of game two.

This will be the first time Picayune has faced Mendenhall on the diamond in the five years that Cayne Stockstill has been the head coach of the Tide.

“We don’t know a lot about them, but I do know they are full of athletes,” Stockstill, whose team is 18-3 on the season and won Division 8-4A. It was the first district title for Picayune since 2003.

“We just have to play to the best of our ability and take care of what we need to do,” Stockstill added.

Stockstill is expected to send ace pitcher Bryce Ladner to the mound in game one. Ladner is a perfect 7-0 on the season.

“That first game is super important to win,” Stockstill said. “That game kind of sets the table for Saturday. We want to get things in our favor.”

At the plate, University of Southern Mississippi signee and Dandy Dozen selection Jared Bales paces Picayune with a .570 average, five home runs and 28 RBI’s. Evan Nichelson (.390), Hunter Gill (.365) and Jacob Riser (.355) have all also had big years at the plate.

The Tide has eight seniors on the team, most of which were involved in that closely fought series with East Central in last year’s first round.

East Central head coach Gary Long said that that series may have been the toughest his team had in the run to the state title.

“I hope being involved with that series last year pays off for us this year,” Stockstill concluded. “We have had a great year, but we still have a lot to play for. We can’t take anything for granted just because we are a one seed this year.”