This time last year, Paul Ashley never imagined that his young Porter’s Chapel team that finished with a 8-14 record would shock high school baseball by advancing to the third round of the playoffs just a year later.
Molding the team of mostly sophomores into becoming one of the toughest squads in the MAIS led Ashley to being selected as the Vicksburg Daily News 2022 Head Baseball Coach of the Year.
“The kids worked a lot in the offseason and in one year’s time we went up in every aspect in baseball, from batting averages to pitching and errors. They just really responded well from what we evaluated out of last season,” Ashley said.
The Eagles started the season off with two losses before going on a six game winning streak. As the season went on and the Eagles played tougher opponents, they had to stick with what Ashley preached to them on a daily basis.
“I always told them to never give up and feel like you’re best player on the field,” Ashley said. “The good thing is that we got everybody coming back next year, and I know we can make it back to the playoffs and maybe even a championship.”
Before the regular season ended, PCA found themselves on another six game winning streak, starting with a 14-2 win over Vicksburg High, who defeated the Eagles in the season opener.
As PCA quickly earned a playoff spot, they swept Desoto in 12-2 and 2-1 victories to advance to the second round. The Eagles repeated the same actions against Calhoun Academy by winning the series in the first two games to take the team deeper in the postseason than had been achieved since 2011.
The memorable season came to an end in the third round against Benton Academy in game three.
Although their great season came to an end, Ashley and his coaching staff formed a special bond with team that made them more like family.
“Majority of these sophomores I had since they were five years old, because we started with tournament ball. We picked up a few along the way and also lost a few, but we all know what to expect out of each other,” Ashley said.
Under Ashley’s leadership, PCA went from committing 93 errors in his first year to having only 56 this year, while throwing 200 strikeouts in 2022 and only 140 the year before. Hitting also improved greatly as the young team racked up 179 hits, which is 74 more than the previous year.
From a 8-14 season to 17-8 and third round of the playoffs appearance, Coach Ashley’s leadership speaks for itself and was the basis of his selection for this award.
“We got some good coaches around here in Warren County and everyone can be awarded but I feel like the kids worked really hard for me and without them none of this is possible.”
“I definitely want to thank the athletic director and the administration for everything they are continuing to do but most of all I have to thank my wife because she’s my rock and she’s been here every step of the way.”
“My assistant coaches Billy White Chris Simms, and Clayton Ashley all stepped up tremendously especially on the days I couldn’t be here and I thank them because I would give them a plan and they stuck to so I knew the team was in good hands,” Ashley said.
Ashley is now the second coach to be given this award and he will have his entire team returning in 2023.See a typo? Report it here.