By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – The sixth inning of Tuesday’s Division 1-3A game against Corinth had a happy ending for Booneville, but it left Blue Devils coach Bo Sandlin at a loss for words.
Sandlin’s club survived a five-hit, four-run, three-error, one-controversial call sixth inning to defeat the visiting Warriors 6-5 and clinch the division’s regular-season crown.
“I’m speechless,” the coach said of Corinth’s rally in the sixth. “It was exciting. I’m just proud our guys held together and got out of the inning.”
Booneville (16-8-1, 8-1) entered the Warriors’ top half of the sixth with a 6-1 lead.
“We were cruising,” Sandlin said.
Lew Johnson ripped an RBI double off Blue Devils right-hander Kyle Stephenson (7-0) for the Warriors’ first run. He would score moments later on a throwing error by Booneville catcher Andrew Lambert, who was confused about the umpire’s third-strike call.
The ump ruled Lambert dropped the ball. Sandlin argued that his catcher caught it.
Corinth (19-8, 7-2) added two more runs, one on a double by David Wilbanks, before Booneville escaped with bases-loaded force out.
“That was wild,” said Stephenson, who recorded 11 strikeouts and scattered seven hits in seven innings. “We had some bad breaks, but our team battles through that kind of stuff. We had to calm down and get outs.
“Corinth’s a good team. We had them on the ropes and they battled their tails off.”
Booneville broke open a 1-1 game in the fourth inning when shortstop Tre Welch belted a two-out, three-run triple to the gap in left center field.
“That was huge,” Sandlin said. “I talked to Tre at school today and told him he needed to come through big for us. He did.”
The Blue Devils padded their lead with two more runs in the fifth. One scored on an error and the other on Tyler Johnson’s single that helped chase Corinth starter Tyler Thomas.
As it turned out, Booneville would need both runs.
“That (sixth inning) showed me we had a little want-to in us, and against a good pitcher,” Corinth coach Rod Scarbrough said. “For them, the two-out, bases-loaded triple hurt us.”