The 2014 baseball season is here for a senior dominated Tupelo Golden Wave squad with high expectations.
“I like the enthusiasm that we have on this roster,” longtime Tupelo head coach Gary Enis said. “To play the competition we’ll be playing will only make us better.”
A tough and unique schedule awaits Enis’ charges, and the Wave begin their challenge today in the Tupelo Classic. The renovated Golden Wave field will host five games in two days, with Tupelo playing Saltillo at 6 p.m. today, and Louisville Saturday at 5 p.m.
Other games include Nettleton versus Itawamba AHS at 3 p.m. today. The games Saturday are Nettleton-Corinth at 11 a.m., and Saltillo-Itawamba at 2 p.m.
Looking potentially to produce more than its share of runs, Tupelo has two experienced seniors at the top of the lineup as key cogs of the game plan – Michael Ray and Hudson Roy. Way under the radar of many observers, Ray posted one of the best batting averages in Northeast Mississippi at .482 last season, while Roy is a slick hitting left-hander, and two year starter.
“They have to set the table for us,” Enis said. “We do have a lot of returning guys who have been in the lineup. Overall, I think we have a better contact hitting team that will put pressure on defenses. I feel good about this squad.”
Some of the players looking to come along for the offensive ride of the Wave are seniors Reed Taylor, Carter Clayton, Ty Wheeler, and junior William Ikerd.
Enis will be looking for the Wave pitching staff to keep opposing offensive damage to a minimum. “Right now, we’ll pitch the guys who will throw strikes, and have been getting people out in our scrimmages,” Enis said. “We have a lot of guys who have good enough stuff to get outs. “I couldn’t tell you who will be our division starters, but we’ve got eight games to determine who they will be.”
Tupelo does have eight games before its division opener March 18 at South Panola, and Enis hopes the staff gels in that span. Roy has the most experience on the staff, with Clayton, Wheeler, senior Luke Weeden, and sophomore Jason Garrett as top contenders.
The Tupelo defense will look to aid efforts on mound.
A potentially strong outfield could see Ray in center, surrounded by Roy, Weeden, or senior Matthew Miley.
The infield has Taylor at third, Clayton at shortstop, senior Chase Cerniglario at second, and Wheeler at first. Junior Carson Roberts and Woody Goss have been dynamic in practice thus far, and should see action as well.
Ikerd will get the call behind the plate, with Ray as the No. 2 catcher. “Our position players could change from game to game because of who will be pitching,” Enis said. “There are several options, but we have to keep guys in the lineup who are producing offensively.”
The Tupelo schedule will include its usual fare of nine Division 2-6A games against South Panola, Grenada, and newcomer Hernando. Perhaps he biggest eye-opener on the schedule is the inclusion of usual Tupelo nemesis Madison Central. For the first time ever, the Wave will play a home-and-home regular season series with the Jaguars.
On March 29, Tupelo will play at Madison Central, as well well as a former Class 5A champion Ridgeland.
Then on April 18, the last weekend of the regular season, Madison Central comes to Tupelo. Turning around on April 19, Madison Central joins Tupelo in a doubleheader against the preseason No. 1 team in Mississippi – DeSoto Central.
“We want to play the best,” Enis said. “We’re not in the playoffs yet, but if we are there, facing teams like Madison Central and DeSoto Central will not be shock.”