Paris baseball, softball clinch high school region tournament berths

Jamie Varnell
Paris Express

Through the first half of the season, the Paris baseball team was a middling squad with a record hovering around .500.

They struggled at the plate, couldn’t find the strike zone with consistency, and booted several balls a game.

On March 30th they had a come from behind 13-10 win over Charleston that turned the season on end. The bats came alive, the strike zone has been blistered, and the defense has ridden the momentum. 

“Coach (Joe) Devine and I knew it was coming. We knew the potential this team had and that it was only a matter of time for us to get everything firing on all cylinders," Paris coach Josh Hart said.

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And that they have as they went 7-2 over their next 9 games, winning all 3A-4 North division matchups and taking the regular season title.

“We are throwing more strikes and getting ahead in the count more often," Hart said. "We also have been throwing our secondary pitches for strikes. Our defense has picked it up as well giving our pitchers confidence.” 

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The regular season win gives them a bye to the district tournament semifinals and guarantees they advance to the regional tournament. This year, the district host is Logan County rival Booneville, and if seeds hold true, that is who the Eagles will face in their first game.

Pitching depth is vital in tournament play for baseball, with pitch counts dictating a specific number of days rest before taking the mound again. Hart is confident in his young staff. They traveled to face a strong Scranton squad who is currently leading their conference standings. Paris blistered the ball, and fresh faces dealt from the mound.

Four pitchers combined for 12 strikeouts and only allowed two hits in the 16-3 win. 

Duke Walker, who is a Missouri baseball commit as a junior has flashed the tools that have made him an SEC recruit. He has hit well and has anchored the starting pitching, facing each team’s top arm.

At Charleston in the rematch, he only pitched four innings with the game in hand, striking out all 12 he faced, stole 2 bases, and hit a grand slam in the 15-3 win.

His fastball has been topping out around 91 mph in recent starts. “When you have a guy that can go out and shut a team down, it relieves the pressure of thinking they can’t make any mistakes and have to score several runs to try and stay in ball games,” Hart said of Walker.

Not to be overlooked are the Lady Eagles softball, who have secured the North Division title themselves this year and a regional tournament berth. It has become almost as customary as spring weather seeing the Lady Eagles in the postseason.

This year, they are doing it with a lot of new faces in a lot of new places. Jadyn Hart is still throwing the ball past everyone from the pitching circle. In a recent tournament, she won two of the games she pitched and hit three home runs.