For the second straight year, the District 8 All-Star Baseball Team won the Gold Medal at the State Games in resounding fashion.
District 8 defeated the Mississippi Delta representative 14-4 in the championship game at Meridian Community College this past weekend. District 8, coached by Cragin Gilbert (D'Iberville) and Shane Rutledge (Long Beach), went 4-0 in the tournament.
A year ago, District 8 also went 4-0 in winning the State Games. Pearl River Central's Neil Walther and Picayune's Cayne Stockstill coached the 2013 team.
The team was made up of high school players who will graduate in 2015 and 2016.
Four players gained their second Gold Medal in the State Games: Bruce Mathes (Long Beach), Peyton Lee (Picayune), Eric Saksa (East Central) and Dylan Hardy (D'Iberville).
Rutledge said that 124 players tried out for the 18-man squad earlier this summer. Gulfport baseball coach Jamie McMahon is the chairman for District 8 and organized the tryouts.
"Peyton Lee had a grand slam in the last game,'' Rutledge said. "Dylan Hardy had two hits in each of the games. Hunter Waltman of Hancock batted cleanup and had a wheelbarrow worth of hits, at least seven.''
The roster was made up of players from the Coast up to Hattiesburg and Purvis.
The roster included D'Iberville's Luther Woullard and Hardy, Bay High's Tristan Hopgood, George County's Walker Robbins, East Central's Saksa and Seth Stockman. Picayune's Lee, Long Beach's Mathes, Pearl River Central's Mason Songy, Stone High's Tyler Spring, Gulfport's Ben Stiglets, Hancock's Waltman, Petal's Tristan Labove, Oak Grove's JC Keyes and Matt Guidry, and Sumrall's Drake Nightengale, Drake Pace and Alex Knight.
Rutledge handled the District 8 pitching staff and the surplus of talent made it a challenge in some ways. It was tough to get enough innings for all the pitchers. Rutledge said he had to pull Robbins in his start in the opener even though he was throwing a no-hitter. "I tried to limit the pitchers to 50-60 pitches,'' Rutledge said.
Robbins, Lee, Keyes and Saksa got the four starts but they had plenty of relief with pitchers like Mathes, Spring, Stiglets, Pace, Sumrall and Knight.
The State Games also afforded the players a chance to showcase their talents for pro, college and junior college coaches. Forty-two coaches and pro scouts were on hand, Rutledge said, for the Showcase. In addition to pro scouts, coaches from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Delta State, Millsaps, virtually all the Mississippi community colleges and some Alabama junior colleges got a chance to watch the action.
The youngest players on the team -- the Class of 2016 -- on District 8 were Robbins, Hopgood and Woullard.