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INSIDE THE BATTERS BOX: Cathedral looks to continue winning ways

Cathedral High School junior shortstop Andrew Beesley will be a key component for the Green Wave this season in their quest to win the MHSAA Class 1A State Championship. Beesley earned all-region honors last season. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat

Cathedral High School junior shortstop Andrew Beesley will be a key component for the Green Wave this season in their quest to win the MHSAA Class 1A State Championship. Beesley earned all-region honors last season. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

A total of 290 days have passed since Cathedral High School was swept by Smithville High School in the MHSAA Class A State Championship in Pearl.

With the 2015 baseball season officially underway, Cathedral is battling more than just its opponent on the baseball diamond. The battle internally finds the Green Wave trying to channel the right balance of putting the championship loss in the past while allowing it to fuel a championship season in 2015.

Junior shortstop Andrew Beesley didn’t dodge championship chatter looking ahead to the season. Instead, he welcomed it, declaring the team must focus on their objectives to make it back to the state championship game.

“We still have that goal because we came up short last year, and we still have that in our mind,” Beesley said. “We don’t want that to happen again. We want to be the best team in the state. And we want to go out and prove that.”

Three seniors graduated from the 2014 state runner-ups. Four players who earned all-region honors last season return to the Green Wave, including Beesley and Craig Bradley, who earned MHSAA Class 1A First-Team All-State honors. The returning wealth of experience, combined with a talented transfer in Quinton Logan, lift the stakes higher than they were in 2014.

“Man, we’ve got everybody back,” Andrew said, laughing. “We know each other better. We know what everybody is thinking. I think that helps us out a lot, because we’ve played together forever.”

Along with talent and the hype that follows comes pressure, but head coach Craig Beesley is more focused on the team’s unification.

“The main thing I worry about more than anything, because we do have some exceptional talent on this team, is that we come together as a team,” Craig said. “If we bond as a team and start to have good chemistry, like we have the first few weeks, we’re going to be hard to beat.”

The Green Wave have proven capable of bonding in the early goings, playing only a handful of games, and generating impressive results in the process. In a double-header in the Loyd Star Classic on Feb. 28, Cathedral totaled 35 runs, averaging just short of three runs per inning. Cathedral, a team that wasn’t afraid to utilize small ball with bunts and steals last season, had multiple extra base hits in the doubleheader. Logan, who gave up no hits and struck out 11 in his debut against Enterprise, hit two home runs, while Pate Shirley, who picked up the win against Loyd Star, also recorded a home run. Zach Flattmann had two doubles in the contest against Enterprise. Flattman added a home run of his own against Wesson, and Cathedral improved their record to 3-0.

“I think we can play for the big inning more than we could in the past,” Craig said. “Going back-to-back-to-back with Quinton, Zach and Pate, plus the way Brock Farmer and Gabe Smith have been hitting the ball, that’s a pretty deep lineup.”

The pitching rotation is deep, as well, even though Cathedral has to replace the 2014 All-Metro Player of the Year Thomas Garrity. Logan, a powerful lefty that posses great movement on his breaking ball, will lead the charge, with Shirley and Sam Parker following behind. Gabe Smith and Reed White will serve as relievers.

Filling the role of leadoff in place of Garrity could be a number of players, but right now, Andrew is leading off for the Green Wave.

“He’s patient at the plate, which is why I have him there, because he’ll generally see more pitches,” Craig said. “But I have three guys I can switch around. Andrew, Craig Bradley and JJ Jenkins are my one-, two- and 9-hole hitters, but I could switch them all around.”

The 2015 Green Wave are a team set on accomplishing a mission the 2014 team came two games shy of successfully completing. With most of those members present for another go at it, sights are understandably set high.

“That’s real exciting,” Andrew said.