Natchez baseball coach, team pleased with progress

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 18, 2016

NATCHEZ — Dan Smith can’t recall the last time Natchez High School secured a baseball regional title.

“It’s probably been over 10 years,” Smith said.

The second-year coach will have to wait at least one more year to reverse the school’s recent misfortune.

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The Bulldogs fell 12-2 to Brookhaven High School Saturday in a game that decided who would win Region 3-5A.

Natchez will now enter the MHSAA Class 5A playoffs as the No. 2 seed out of the region. Despite the disappointing outcome Saturday, Smith said the 2016 season, to this point, has been a resounding success.

“You have to start somewhere,” Smith said. “We tipped the ice this year. It came down to the last game. I tip my hat to (the players).”

Natchez has achieved its lofty this season due in large part to the team’s aggressive nature. Whether it be pitchers pouring in strike after strike, or the free-swinging nature of the lineup that has produced 10 or more runs 11 times this year, the Bulldogs have remained on the attack.

Perhaps no greater example of the aggressiveness of the Bulldog squad can be identified than a 13-3 win over Provine High School earlier this year, when Natchez stole home on back to back pitches.

“We pride ourselves on baserunning,” Smith said. “We work on that every day. As a coach, I like to utilize the talent that I have. If I didn’t have any speed, then I would bunt a little more. A lot of things can happen when you’re applying pressure to teams.”

The Bulldogs haven’t relied on any one player to carry the load this season. Instead, they’ve utilized an intriguing blend of underclass stars in conjunction with a plethora of senior leaders in managing to find just the right mix.

“(The seniors) helped the young guys get ready,” Smith said. “But I’ll have other coaches coming up to me and asking if (the sophomores) are seniors, and I’ll tell them they are just in 10th grade. They’ve all worked hard, and my hat goes off to the parents for raising such good young men.”

At the head of the senior crop is perhaps Natchez’s best power hitter Dalvion Jackson, who also serves as the team’s regular catcher.

“In the past, we’ve really been a losing streak, but we changed that around this year,” Jackson said. “We were able to do something that we’ve never done before. We wanted to come out and prove we can play the game of baseball, and we did that. It was a good season.”

Jackson said the success of this year’s squad can be attributed to hard work and a close bond throughout the club.

“We’ve been playing with the younger guys since they were in the seventh, eighth and ninth grade,” Jackson said. “We all came in and made a commitment — we went to practice every day — and we talked to about the game with each other. We really came together as a team.”

Natchez has two games remaining left in the regular season before postseason play begins.

The first of the Bulldogs’ final two games will be played at 7 p.m. tonight when they host Cathedral School.