By Mike Talbert
PONTOTOC Kevin Bean survived a lot Friday, including five walks and six errors to get into the jam he faced in the top of the seventh inning.
The tiny Pontotoc sophomore pitcher had the tying run at second with two out. He was facing Amory’s top hitter, Rufus French, who came into the game with a .466 batting average. He worked the count full, then got French swinging at a high fastball, and Pontotoc won 4-3.
“That was a classic,” Pontotoc coach Ben Patterson said, “a pro prospect outfielder facing a 10th grader who showed a lot of maturity.”
Patterson said there have been some days when Bean (4-1) has pitched like a sophomore. Not Friday. Bean had nine strikeouts against three hits.
Amory coach Vince McLemore said, “We just left too many runners stranded (eight) and Bean just got stronger as the game went on. This was a typical Amory-Pontotoc clash.”
Pontotoc is now 12-2 overall and 3-1 in Division 1-3A and Amory is 9-7, 1-2.
Bean dueled with Amory’s top pitcher, Rusty Camp, who had 12 strikeouts. He struck out the side three times. Camp (1-2) has 48 strikeouts in just 24 innings.
He paid for Pontotoc’s four hits, two of them doubles. The coach’s son, Brandon Patterson, hit a game-winning two-run home run in the fifth.
Camp said, “I was having a little trouble with my release point in the fifth, and I was trying a little different release point and hung a curve. They have a really good hitting team.”
Pontotoc was able to survive a rash of early errors when Amory hit the ball at people.
The Panthers had built a 3-2 lead with unearned runs in each of the first three innings, and threatened to blow the game open by loading the bases with two outs after Rob Yates led off the top of the fifth with a double. Brent Miley hit a line drive up the middle. Center fielder Evan Ray charged the ball and gambled for the catch.
“That was the turning point of the game,” Patterson said. “I have a lot of 10th graders, but that is one place where we have experience. If he hadn’t been going for the out all the way, if he had hesitated for a fraction of a second, they would have scored at least two runs.”