West Lauderdale Coach Closing in on State Record

By: Louis Montesi, III
By: Louis Montesi, III
West Lauderdale baseball coach Jerry Boatner is three wins away from breaking the state record for career victories. Boatner has been a high school head baseball coach in Lauderdale County for a total of 46 years.

Jerry Boatner

Three wins: that's all West Lauderdale baseball coach Jerry Boatner needs to break former Mooreville coach Rex Berryman's career record of 1,068 wins.

"Twenty years ago, you wouldn't think about winning a national record or state record for most wins," said Boatner.

After five years as Clarkdale's head coach, Boatner arrived in Collinsville in 1973 and never left.

"I have it made here," said Boatner. "We have a great program, a lot of great facilities, a lot of great assistant coaches, and all the principles [have] let me run the show. I tell people, 'I got the best job in the world.'"

In his 41 seasons at West Lauderdale, Boatner's attention to detail and emphasis on bunting inspired the phrase "Boatner ball."

"Very, very thorough," said senior Colton McKeithen on the unique term. "Focused on the little things. You've got to do little things right. Pay attention to detail.. a lot of bunting. A lot of pressure. Make them make mistakes."

"To me, discipline is doing something that you don't want to do with the right attitude," said Boatner.

Thanks to that discipline, West Lauderale has won 12 state championships under Boatner's watch. It's a Mississippi record, and by Tuesday, coach Boatner could have another.

Senior catcher Blake Anderson is a Southern Miss signee. He said he'll be proud to help his coach break the record.

"It's an honor to be able to do that for him," said Anderson. "I know it's been something that's been going on for 40 years, but being able to break that for him is an honor."

Boatner never thought he would be the Knight's coach for so long. Now he doesn't want to leave.

"It's been a great ride, and even when I think about retiring, I get sad," said Boatner. "I may cry right now."

It may make him feel sad, but the architect of "Boatner ball" has no desire to stop.

"The good Lord has blessed me with great health," said Boatner. "And you know, the more I coach, I think, the better I get. I'm a better coach this year than I was last year, because I keep studying the game, and I think that's the way it's supposed to be."

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