By JOEL COLEMAN
Eight months remain before the Starkville Academy Volunteers begin the 2012 baseball season.
Following Monday's happenings at Starkville High's Yellowjacket Field, no one could blame the Volunteers if they were already yearning for February.
SA, who had already won six of its eight summer league games coming into Monday's action, kept its successful summer rolling, picking up two more victories with a pair of wins over SHS.
The Vols easily dispatched the Yellowjackets 9-0 in Monday's opener before holding on for a 7-6 triumph in the nightcap.
"These were both really good wins for us," said SA head coach Neal Henry. "To win here in a rivalry game, at a Class 5A school, it feels good."
Alex Holtcamp set the tone for the day's events with his complete-game shutout in the first game.
While SA put together a five-run second inning to surge ahead 5-0, Holtcamp stifled SHS batters throughout the contest as the Vols added two runs in the fourth and two more in the fifth to pull away.
"I hit spots good with my fastball and had good defense behind me making good plays," said Holtcamp. "(Getting a big early lead) helped a lot, too. You feel better pitching with a lead like that. You feel more comfortable on the mound."
In the second game, Hunter Bolin picked up the pitching win for SA, tossing the first five innings before handing things over to Stephen Robertson in the sixth.
Robertson went on to slam the door on SHS, recording the save and moving the Vols' overall summer record to 8-2.
Henry attributes much of his club's current winning ways to their defense. While the Vols have at times this summer displayed strengths at the plate and on the mound, Henry says he's been a bit surprised at how well SA has played in the field.
"We've put some guys in some spots that have never played those spots before and they've excelled," said Henry. "You've got guys like Michael Miller playing second base. This past year, he was just a ninth grader coming onto the varsity team not knowing much, and now this summer he's played a great second base.
"Everybody has played well defensively. Our older guys, they come out here and take this seriously because they know what to expect and they want to play. It's just been a really good summer so far."
Henry hopes SA can keep up their current hot streak and take the momentum into the 2012 regular season.
While that is still months down the road, Henry says you can't underestimate the confidence his team is currently building by notching victories over schools such as SHS, Caledonia and West Point.
"You're really building your team for next year," said Henry. "That's why you play summer ball. It starts with the chemistry and finding out who can do things in certain spots and who can't. You try people at new positions and things like that and it has all really worked out well for us I think.
"These guys are out here, they're getting better and they are wanting to get better and that shows me their effort and that they care about baseball."