Picayune baseball working on mental game

Published 7:00 am Friday, October 18, 2019

The ground was still damp from a rainstorm earlier in the day when Picayune’s baseball players took the field for practice.

It was a relaxed atmosphere, but that didn’t mean the players weren’t hard at work.

After throwing the ball back and forth to warm up the arms, Head Coach Cody Stogner and Assistant Coach Evan Nichelson cycled the players through batting drills.

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The number of participants is down to 12 players currently with the rest of the squad busy in other sports still in season.

However, that didn’t stop the athletes who came up to bat from crushing the ball, with multiple sent over the outfield wall.

Three players cycled through hitting the ball until there weren’t any balls left for Stogner to pitch.

The rest of the athletes were spread along the infield and outfield to retrieve all of the balls that were hit.

Once Stogner would run out the net would be refilled and three new players would be selected to run through the drill.

Prior to any athlete stepping into the batter’s box, Nichelson described a hypothetical situation and ask the batters to hit the ball to a certain area.

Whether it was a scenario where the bases are loaded and there are no outs, or there’s a runner on third with one out, Nichelson had the hitters rotate through a variety of scenarios.

The purpose of this was for the players to understand situational hitting, and Stogner said that’s where the mental aspect of baseball comes in.

Players can’t just hack at a ball and expect something good to come from it.

Each swing must have a purpose and being mentally tough enough to get through an at bat successfully is something the team has been working on.

“Training your mind to be tougher is no different than training your body for competition, and I can see some changes in a lot of our kids,” Stogner said. Stogner said each of the 12 players who come to the practices have steadily improved, and added that Trey Wells’ dedication and work ethic has rubbed off on his teammates.

“That dude has the self motivation to make him and the team better, and that is what it is all about. I could go on and on about every kid. They all have been working hard,” Stogner said.

The team’s first competitive action will take place Feb. 15 with a jamboree in Biloxi, followed by the team’s first game on Feb. 21 against Pass Christian. Picayune is returning all but two players from last year’s team that made it to the third round of the playoffs, and Stogner said each player is talented enough to be in the starting nine.

“These guys are going to make it tough on who should be in the starting line-up, but that is what makes this fun,” Stogner said. The team changes its workout on a daily basis, and even though the season is still months away, Picayune is preparing for a big season. “Expectations will never change; our goal is to make sure that we are getting better every day, and to win a state championship,” Stogner said.