Barnes’ chess match gets Natchez in finals

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 26, 2003

HATTIESBURG &045; You can better believe with his cleverness and strategy Natchez head coach William Barnes has a few more tricks up his sleeve for the Mississippi Dixie Boys 13-year-old state finals today.

A smart move to conserve pitching, and a pair of 2-RBI doubles staked Natchez to a 10-6 victory over host Hattiesburg Thursday.

&uot;I think there are probably more head games going on at this point with teams having to hide signs,&uot; Barnes said. &uot;This type of baseball really prepares the players for the next level. It makes them play a more complete game.&uot;

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The win advances Natchez to the championship round. If Oak Grove defeated Kosciusko in the late game Thursday, Natchez has to defeat Oak Grove twice beginning at 5:30 p.m. today.

However if Kosciusko upended Oak Grove those two teams face off again in the 5:30 p.m. game, with the winner needing to knock off Natchez at 8 p.m.

A key one-out double in the sixth inning from Ryan Ratcliff to score Matt Barnes and Duncan Guedon drastically changed the complexion of the game.

Instead of a three-run lead, and Hattiesburg building some momentum off a two-run bottom half of the fifth, Natchez pushed out 10-5 for some breathing room.

&uot;Those two runs were big for us because in the seventh they scored and had one on,&uot; William Barnes said. &uot;There would’ve been more pressure then. That gave us a little cushion.&uot;

Natchez blew the doors off Hattiesburg early by moving ahead 8-1 through 2 1/2 innings with a four-run second and a three-run first.

Braxton Fondren scored to make it 4-0 in the second when he singled and scored on a Jessie Morrison RBI single. Matt Barnes followed Morrison with a 2-RBI single to score Luke Brumfield ahead of Morrison, who motored around to score as well.

After Natchez starter and winner Dustin Carroll was hit by a Rya McSwain pitch, Kendall Logan delivered an RBI single to put Natchez up 7-1.

&uot;The biggest adjustment we’ve made is at the plate,&uot; William Barnes said. &uot;When we first came in there were a lot of pitchers we hadn’t seen, of course, and we were taking a lot. The last game or two we’ve been free swinging. Some boys didn’t like taking a pitch, but in the long run it’s helped us.

&uot;We’re more relaxed and we’re swinging the bats better.&uot;

In the first it was Brumfield who led things off with a base hit, and it appeared as though it would be stranded when Hattiesburg got the next two batters out.

However, Carroll delivered with a double to score Brumfield and ignite a three-run inning. Kendall Logan and Ratcliff followed with walks, and both scored when Ja-Mes Logan reached base on an error.

&uot;(Carroll) knocked in a big run for us. That was a huge two-out hit and he ended up scoring too,&uot; William Barnes said. &uot;He did a good job for us on the mound as well.&uot;

William Barnes, confident that he had the bats and the arms to depend on, pulled Carroll out early in order to conserve him for today’s championship game.

He has five pitchers left in his rotation, with each having six innings to work with over either one or two games.

&uot;It was a gamble when we pulled (Carroll) because he was in a groove, and you never want to pull anybody in a groove,&uot; William Barnes said. &uot;But I think by relieving him we put ourselves in a position to win the whole thing.&uot;

In the third Natchez padded its six-run advantage with one more to go up 8-1 when Fondren, who led off with a walk, scored when Morrison reached base on an error.

&uot;We stayed on them the whole game. There were only two innings where we went dry,&uot; William Barnes said. &uot;We kept it all the way through the game.

&uot;Everybody came through at the plate tonight. We weren’t satisfied with just winning this game. We wanted to use it to prepare to win the whole tournament.&uot;

Whoever ends up being Natchez’s opponent today, they are messing with a dangerous, fearless team, he added.

&uot;If I’ve got a kid who is good in the seventh inning then we’ll leave him in there,&uot; William Barnes said. &uot;But we’re in a situation where we can’t afford to hold anybody back. If someone struggles we’ll replace them.&uot;