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Poplarville baseball knocked out of playoffs

A 12-1 loss in game one was followed by a hard fought 4-0 defeat at home last Friday as the Poplarville Hornets’ playoff run came to an end at the hands of the Stone County Tomcats.

Riley Passman pitched a good game, going 6 1/3 innings while striking out nine and only allowing one earned run, but the Hornets had a hard time producing anything at the plate aside from Joseph Blakeney who went 2-4 on the night.

“Game two we did a lot better job of blocking out the noise and executing. There were one or two pitches we made mistakes on, on the mound, and we weren’t able to get some timely hits on offense. There were a couple base running mistakes and that’s the difference in those tight games,” Head Coach Slade Jones said.

While there were five seniors in the starting lineup, the majority of the players were first year starters having lost last season to COVID-19.

The lack of experience wasn’t a hindrance in the Hornets’ first round series against McComb, but against Stone the pressure was on.

“I think that showed. It really showed in game one that we hadn’t been there yet and unfortunately you can’t make mistakes this late. I thought the noise got to them in the first game. Overall I thought our inexperience showed,” Jones said.

Poplarville’s seniors are part of a unique group of athletes getting to play out their final season just a year removed from watching players a year older have their final season taken away because of the pandemic.

Not only did the Hornets watch several key athletes graduate, but the lost season also prevented this year’s starters from getting the reps they needed.

The complex situation was an obstacle Poplarville had to navigate as Jones worked with his players to reach the team’s lofty goals.

“Was it a factor? Yes, for us especially because we only really had one senior that had a lot of playing time, which was (Jordan) Belsome. It is what it is. We knew it would be something we’d have to overcome. It was decent year, wasn’t a losing year, but our expectations were so high we felt like we didn’t do the things we wanted to,” Jones said.

However, now that the world is slowly starting to return to normal the program will be able to take advantage of looser COVID-19 restrictions that hindered activity last summer.

Practices, workouts and summer games are all part of the plan for the upcoming months as Jones and his athletes get back on the grind.

“We’ll give them two weeks off, then the first week of June we’ll be practicing three days a week and lifting weights three days a week. I have several that’ll be playing travel ball and then they’ll play a little schedule with us, (too),” Jones said.