Tide must replace key arms

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Picayune ran into a tough second round opponent in the Class 5A South State baseball playoffs.

The result was a quick exit from the postseason for the Maroon Tide.

East Central, which finished second in Region 8-5A, swept two games from Picayune, winning 10-1 and then sealing the series with a 2-0 win Friday in Hurley. Picayune, which won Region 7-5A, finished the season at 12-9. East Central, now 20-6, moves on to face Pascagoula in the Class 5A South state semifinal round this weekend. Pascagoula is the two-time defending Class 5A South State champion, and defeated Picayune in three games last season for the South State title.

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There would be no magical run for the Maroon Tide this year, however.

“East Central is a very good team, they play the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” veteran Picayune head coach Cayne Stockstill said. “We had a good year, winning the district and all. We just ran into a buzz saw.”

The Maroon Tide endured a season in which its pitching, which was one of its strengths, was never actually at full strength. Ace hurler Peyton Lee was very impressive throughout the year, especially in league play, but suffered a back injury late in the season. Kyle Dillard, who was injured as a junior, spent most of his senior season battling back from that ailment and just about the time he was back to full strength, Lee was hurt.

“We had more depth this year pitching-wise, and we had some guys really step up for us,” Stockstill added. “ But to make a run in the playoffs, you just have to have everybody healthy at the same time.”

Lee and Hayden Falls will return to pace the pitching staff next year, but the Maroon Tide loses several key hurlers in Dillard, Mark Wood, Dylan Breaux and Cody Hamrick.

The Maroon Tide will have some key juniors return to the batting order, however, as Devin Hedgepeth, Lee, Morgan Dragon, Dalton Hedgepeth, Brady Warden and Falls will all return for their senior seasons.

“We did a lot of good things this season,” Stockstill concluded. “We just have to get some younger guys to step up next season and meet the challenge.”