By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Tupelo’s 3-0 in Division 2-6A play today thanks to Connor Carothers’ hot bat and Ben Aldridge’s strong right arm.
Carothers went 3-for-3 with two doubles and a home run while Aldridge recorded seven strikeouts in 22/3 innings of relief to help the Golden Wave sink rival Starkville 8-5 Tuesday.
The two teams – Tupelo (14-1) and Starkville (4-7, 0-3) – play again at 6 p.m. Friday in Tupelo.
“Carothers hit the ball well,” Tupelo coach Gary Enis said of his left fielder. “He’s starting to come on.”
Aldridge recorded his third save of the season after relieving starter J.D. Roberts (4-0) with the bases loaded in the fifth. He struck out the two batters he faced in the inning.
Roberts, a lefty, threw close to 100 pitches.
“It wasn’t his best night,” Enis said of his unbeaten starter. “Aldridge came in and shut the door. He’s got a lot of movement. It’s tough picking up his pitches, especially after seeing a lefty all night.”
Tupelo took a 4-0 lead in the first on singles by Cody Shrewsbury, Ben Hudspeth and Blake McCullough, and a two-run double to center by Carothers.
Starkville answered with two runs in the bottom of the first when Daniel Murphree’s ground ball went between Shrewsbury’s legs at first base.
The Yellowjackets escaped a bases-loaded situation in the second when starting left-hander Nathan Pugh fanned Hudspeth, and in the third, when reliever Wesley Montgomery got Dylan Vuncannon to line out to shortstop.
Tupelo, however, did score in the third to go up 5-2 on a solo homer by Carothers.
“It was a fastball, almost right down the middle,” Carothers said. “I thought, overall, we hit well as a team. We came out prepared. It was a big win. Starkville’s one of the teams you have to beat.”
Tupelo reached Yellowjackets pitching for 11 hits, including a pair by Vuncannon.
Starkville made it 5-3 in the fifth when Pugh singled and later scored on a bases-loaded walk.
“We weren’t able to take advantage when we had runners on,” Starkville coach Danny Carlisle said. “We didn’t do what we needed to do to get runs home.”
William Goss opened the sixth with a single then scored on Hudspeth’s fielder’s choice to give Tupelo a 6-3 lead.
The Golden Wave pushed its lead to 8-3 in the seventh on Vuncannon’s double to left.
Starkville’s final two runs came in on a throwing error by Hudspeth in the bottom of the final inning.