By BRAD CROWE – Dispatch Sports
Just one day after Valentine’s Day, many local fans celebrated their love for baseball and softball with the arrival of the 2022 MHSAA seasons. Four teams from Perry Central and Richton are back in action with seasoned playmakers, promising newcomers and big goals in mind for the campaigns ahead.
Five seniors are leading the way for the Richton Rebels baseball team this season with hopes to build on momentum from last year’s run to Round 3 of the Class 1A state playoffs. The Rebels finished second in region standings with a 5-3 record in district contests. With many of last year’s playmakers still in the lineup, the Rebels feel confident in their chances of reaching lofty goals again in 2022.
The Rebels seemed nearly flawless on opening day, with a Sam Henderson no-hitter and several hot bats resulting in a 16-0 win in four innings over Washington County. The following day senior Brannon Wiley shined in a 3-1 pitcher’s duel win over Leroy. The Rebels took their first loss on Tuesday against the highly-touted 4A Sumrall Bobcats in a contest that remained neck-and-neck through six innings of play. With the fruits of their offseason labor already beginning to show, the head coach Josh Palmer and the Rebels are ready to take on every challenge with confidence in their abilities and potential as a team.
Still awaiting the start of their new season are the Richton Lady Rebels, who also return five senior leaders who played big roles in the team’s postseason run in 2021. Richton swept Simmons in the first round of state playoffs last year before falling to Sebastopol in Round 2 of action. With experienced and talented leadership and a lot of bright young potential, the Lady Rebels are excited for the chance to raise the bar even higher in the season ahead.
Looking to build off last year’s 7-1 run through region play is the Perry Central Bulldogs baseball team, who have now entered Region 8-3A to take on a new strong group of rivals. Head coach Ryan Jackson said his team intends to test itself early and often against top tier competition in preparation to make a strong first impression on their new region rivals.
The Bulldogs’ first three opponents were top-notch teams from 4A, 5A and 6A classifications: Wayne County, Richland and Sumrall. Though they fell in all 3, the Bulldogs are confident that pushing themselves in non-region play will pay dividends toward reaching their ultimate goals for the season.
The Lady Bulldogs softball team is back in action with hopes of making the most of a fresh start as new members of Region 8-3A. Though wins were hard to come by in 2021, a pair of seniors and several seasoned underclassmen were members of an accomplished 2019 squad and still remember what success tasted like before COVID made things a little harder to savor.
The team tested itself against a strong 6A West Harrison squad to open the season and nearly came away with a win, ultimately falling 12-11 in a shootout. The challenges will keep coming for them throughout non-region play, with contests against top teams from higher classifications such as Wayne County, St. Patrick and FCAHS scheduled from next week through spring break in March. Head coach Matt Godshaw and the Lady Bulldogs are eager for each chance to compete and improve as they enter a new season filled with new opportunities.
Full season previews of both the Richton and Perry Central teams will be featured in next week’s edition, with in-depth looks into what fans can expect to see on both fields and what will take for both teams to achieve their goals for the 2022 season.