Dustin Dickerson remembers the ride home from Stadium Drive in Hattiesburg, MS. The sting of defeat on an otherwise successful season that fell a few games short of it’s intended goal can leave that kind of impression. It can also weave together an unquenchable thirst and resolve that leads to something greater – and as in the case of Dickerson and fellow teammates, something never been done before.
“We left Smokie Harrington Park last year upset,” recalls Dickerson.
West Jones fell to Hattiesburg in the Class 5A South State series in 2018, and though everyone knew 2018 was Hattiesburg’s year, the loss still hurt. Those who would return in 2019, Dickerson included, came together that night and vowed to win it all next season.
“We came ready to work in the offseason,” Dickerson added. “We had targets on our backs, though. We had a big senior group, and it was tough. Everyone came after us. Everybody threw their best arms at us.”
After advancing to the South State series in 2018, and returning its ace in Dickerson, along with several other key pieces, the target for everyone in 5A was clear. Take out, West Jones.
Several tried, and every one failed. The only 5A team to beat West Jones in 2019 was South Jones, and it was a game that was of no significant value, no district or playoff implications, and other than to say they beat a county rival.
West Jones finished Region 5-5A, 8-1, finished the regular season, 21-5, and cruised through the postseason, 8-0, on the way to the program’s first-ever state baseball title. At Trustmark Park in Pearl, West Jones swept the north champion Lafayette in two games, 10-1 and 7-2.
“We knew that for us to reach our goal, we had to come prepared to win every game,” said Dickerson. “I’m glad we came out state champs.”
Dickerson played a big part in delivering West Jones its first baseball title in program history. The moxie he brought to the mound, he brought on the field (at shortstop), and the swagger brought to the field he reciprocated at the plate. His presence was felt throughout the game.
“He’s been a great player for us,” said West Jones and Sports601 Baseball Coach of the Year Trey Sutton. “He is a competitor. He fought for the guys on the field, the guys in the dugout, his coaches and his friends and fellow schoolmates.”
Dickerson finished the season 8-1 on the mound with a 1.80 ERA. In Game 1 of the 5A Championship series, the Southern Miss signee held Lafayette to one earned run on six hits in near complete game performance and tied for a season-high 13 strikeouts. He struck out the same number vs. Long Beach in the teams first playoff game of the 2019 season.
Offensively, Dickerson batted .314 with 33 hits and a team-high nine doubles. He also hit two home runs and batted in 26 runs. Defensively, he yielded a .932 fielding percentage at one of the most active positions in the infield – shortstop. He committed just six errors in 88 total chances.
“He’s a special player,” added Sutton. “He’ll be fun to watch at the next level. I look for him to continue to do big things.”
The most memorable moment of Dickerson’s season came after the season’s last out was recorded – and it wasn’t the celebration he shared with teammates on the field.
“I was on the field dog piling, celebrating on the field with my teammates and crying,” said Dickerson, “then I saw him standing by third base. I didn’t even know he was at the game. I thought it was a dream.”
The man Dickerson saw standing – also filled with joyful tears – was his dad Bobby Dickerson, assistant coach of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was the first high school game his dad got the chance to see in person due to both the high school and MLB season overlapping.
“He was able to watch the streaming of Game 1,” added Dickerson. “I figured he would do the same for Game 2, but he surprised me.”
As well as being named Sports601 Baseball Player of the Year in Jones, Jasper and Smith County, Dickerson was named 5A Player of the Year in Mississippi.