Patriots spoil Taylor’s return

Published 11:43 am Tuesday, April 19, 2011

JACKSON — It’s been 15 years since the last time Jim Taylor put on a baseball uniform.

On Monday afternoon at Forest Hill Park, Taylor was in a black and gray uniform prodding his team as it tried to tune up for a Class 1A play-in series this week.

Unfortunately, the same problems that hindered the Flashes under former coach Jacan Warren bit them again against Forest Hill. The Flashes’ lack of pitching depth reared its head in the bottom of the sixth inning as the Patriots strung together seven hits to score six runs and beat St. Al 7-5.

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St. Al was playing the game just hours after school principal Michelle Connelly terminated Warren’s contract and named Taylor, the school’s athletic director, as interim coach.

Neal Ricks, a junior first baseman, said the Flashes put the Warren firing behind them.

“Coach Taylor is our coach now,” Ricks said. “He will be there until the end of the season. We respect him because he shows up at every sport at the school. He’s getting us prepared for our play-in series this week.”

Taylor — who has coached only golf since retiring from football — said he felt a little uncomfortable given the circumstances.

“I would much rather have someone else here,” Taylor said. “I don’t know, it’s been 14 or 15 years since I’ve had one of these things on. It was before (Hinds Community College baseball coach) Sam Temple came to Warren Central and right when I retired from there, I guess, 1996.”

Taylor looked like he would win his first game back as St. Al’s baseball coach. The Flashes held a 4-1 lead going into the bottom of the sixth inning.

Forest Hill (5-16), however, had its best hitter up to start the inning against freshman Carlisle Koestler, who was in his third inning of relief. Denzel Mitchell greeted a Koestler fastball with a laser to right-center for a triple. It was his third hit of the day.

Larry Cowan followed with a single past third base to score Mitchell to make it 4-2. After a strikeout, Dillon Jacque singled to left to put runners on the corners. That was all for Koestler and Matt Mims took the ball.

Forest Hill coach Lee Kelly, sensing the Flashes were getting nervous, had Cowan steal home. He beat the throw and the lead was down to a single run.

A single by Eddie Steele, and a wild pitch, put the go-ahead run in scoring position. Jamarkis Holmes brought the two in when his hit found a hole past a diving Ricks at first base to give the Patriots a 5-4 lead.

Forest Hill would reload the bases and then get two more runs off a hit batsman and a bases-loaded walk to go up 7-4.

Mitchell, who was also on his third inning of relief, fared better than his St. Al counterpart. He gave up a one-out, RBI double to Ricks in between a pair of walks, but then got a pop-up and a called strikeout to end the game.

“We sometimes look pretty aloof out there, but we did hit good that one inning,” Kelly said of his Patriots. Forest Hill, despite its record, is also playoff bound and will face Moss Point later this week.

St. Al, now 2-17, will build its playoff hopes around a good outing from ace Judson Gatling and some good at-bats sprinkled in through the first five innings.