Max Bartlett is one of the senior leaders for the SHS baseball team this season. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
The Starkville Yellowjackets are anxious to see if the hard work they have put in pays off.
As the coach Brian Jones era begins at SHS, the players have bought into the system and look to put what they've learned into action.
Jones has been pleased with the work ethic of the Jackets.
"We have not taken one single minute of the day off," Jones said. "We have used every available second for some type of baseball with either conditioning, strength purposes, baseball drills, (learning) basic knowledge of the game and understanding where to be in certain situations. That much I'm satisfied in.
"We've had relatively good weather. They've really worked hard and wanted to prove a point to different people that they want to win and it was important to them."
Starkville participated in the Kosciusko jamboree last weekend and were presented with very difficult conditions for baseball competition.
Jones said the activity provided the type of measuring stick that he needed to see for the pitching staff and offense.
"Our biggest concern since the beginning was on the mound because you graduate a group of guys last year that virtually threw every inning, so we were basically starting from scratch there," Jones said. "Through two varsity games and a junior varsity game (in the Kosciusko jamboree), I couldn't have asked for much more. The varsity guys gave up two free bases by hitting a guy and walked one guy. In eight innings, that's superb. We're not overpowering by any shape, form or fashion, but we've stressed throw it in the zone, throw strikes, let our defense make the plays and keep us in the game. As long as they don't compound walks, then you have an error or two and things like that, you can overcome it a little bit.
"(The) bats were a little sluggish as is usually the case this time of year. It was 35 degrees and it snowed on us for an inning or so. Miserable conditions without a doubt. In the second game, we did swing a little better."
Jones said the Jackets will be relying on a small senior class this season for leadership in Max Bartlett, Jalen Campbell and Kyle Thrasher.
The importance of Bartlett is not lost with Jones, saying that he is "the straw that stirs the drink."
"How he plays and how he does really determines a lot of our success," Jones said. "He's our best pitcher and probably our best hitter. (If) you put him in the outfield, he's probably our best outfielder. Wherever you put him, he's that type caliber of player. The kids kind of feed off him. If he does well, generally we do, and every team has that. He's just that guy."
Jones said Campbell and Thrasher will also be valuable assets to the team as seniors, but he has already noticed a group of underclassmen that are ready to make an immediate impact.
"We've had some younger guys really come in, push and work hard," Jones said. "They push one another, so it's a good group of kids."
Jones gets a chance to learn more about his squad this weekend as SHS hosts tournament action.
Six teams come to Danny Carlisle Field for six games on Friday and Saturday. The Jackets welcome Kosciusko, Grenada, Louisville, Leake Central and Greenville to town.
Starkville plays Leake Central at 7 p.m. Friday, then takes on Greenville at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
"One thing Danny (Carlisle) always had was a preseason type of tournament and it was one thing I wanted to continue," Jones said. "It gets our school and community to come out and watch some baseball. You never know about the weather, but you hope it's good for early season. We're looking forward to playing and the kids are excited."
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