HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Separated by just 20 miles, South Jones and Hattiesburg High finally meet on the diamond this season in Friday night's class 5A second-round playoff matchup.
"To get to go play Hattiesburg, somebody that's so close to us," said South Jones baseball coach Jordan Rogers. "A lot of our guys grew up playing ball with those guys or against those guys. It's a great thing to be able to be playing that caliber of baseball this time of year."
The two clubs find themselves in a similar position as last season. The Tigers knocked the Braves out the 2016 playoffs in the second round.
"With us being there last year and being in some close games," said Hattiesburg baseball coach Joe Hartfield. "Especially the two against South Jones. That was probably our most intense series that we had last year prior to the state championship."
"Most people associate the past with the negativity but one thing we really try to talk about with the guys and really discuss as a team is the positive things as well," Rogers said.
Before each season, South Jones prints a bible verse on their T-shirts, choosing one that they feel best represents the mission for the upcoming year. In 2017, the Braves chose a verse from 1 Peter 5:6: "Humble yourselves, therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time."
"Just because you think it's going to be the right moment, doesn't mean God thinks it's the right moment," said South Jones senior infielder McCoy Walters. "He's going to exalt you whenever the time is right. I think this year we really have something special. Coach [Rogers] has been pounding our heads that we truly have to believe that something miraculous is going to happen this year."
Both squads have their collective eyes set on the class 5A state championship. However, both groups are mature enough to know that each game, inning and pitch of the series is crucial.
"Playing a good team, you really have to come out pounding," said Hattiesburg junior Dexter Jordan. "You can't wait to do it in the fifth or sixth inning."
"It won't be as easy as it was last year but only because they play with a lot of energy," said Hattiesburg junior Joe Gray. "But also, we play with a lot of energy at home too."
"We're just trying to focus on going in there and playing our game because if we play our game, we can't be beat," said South Jones senior catcher Steven Sasser. "We truly believe that we are actually one of the best teams in the state."