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Taste of success gives hope for the future

The Picayune Memorial High School varsity baseball team finished the season 17-11 and went an impressive 6-3 in district games.

Coach Cody Stogner knew going into the season that his squad was going to be a little green, but that didn’t stop him from instilling high expectations in his players.

“Our goal is to win the state championship, to win it all,” Stogner said.

“Now we’ve been there we know what it takes to win it all and we have to push to get better. It’s not going to be easy, but I firmly believe we’ll be one of the teams to beat.”

The team got off to a hot start before struggling during the middle of the season with two spans of three losses in a row. After that, the squad turned it around and won 10 out of their last 13 games.

“We were playing well at the right time, and I was happy the way the season went,” Stogner said.

The Maroon Tide struggled last year in district games, but the team learned from its mistakes and rose to the challenge.

A large part of the team’s success was veteran leadership from the two seniors in the group. With a lot of the players not having quite as much experience, great leadership was key during the Maroon Tide’s season.

“Senior leadership was big even though there was only two of them,” Stogner said.

“When they were freshmen they went 4-20, and this year we went 17-11. They left the program better than it was when they came in.”

Handling adversity was a common theme throughout the season and Coach Stogner knew that in order for his players to be successful he had to instill the right kind of mindset.

“It wasn’t the easiest thing to do,” Stogner said.

“How are you going to handle the next pitch? There are only two things you can control. How you react to the pitch and how you respond to it. We have a lot of guys that have played a lot of baseball, and these guys have a burning desire to win. Do whatever you can do in your role to help this team win. Each guy has a role and they really bought into that.”

Stogner said that heading into next year with more seniors on the squad will make overcoming tough midseason obstacles significantly easier.

“We will have nine seniors next year and they have played a lot of baseball,” Stogner said.

“Playing experiences means a lot. I believe we’re going to be battle tested. They understand where the program is and where we want to get it. We have a lot of good leadership, and we’re fortunate enough to have a big group of seniors. It’ll take a lot of work and a lot of luck, but we strive to be the best and to do that we have to continue to work on it and build on it and not be satisfied with what we did last year.”