CLINTON The Class of 1999 saved the baseball season of 1996 for Tupelo High School. Again.
As they did against Starkville in the Division 2-5A championship game and against Southaven in Round 1 of the playoffs, freshmen Lee Loden and Justin Bounds provided solid relief pitching, allowing the Golden Wave to rally from five runs back for an 11-9 win in Game 1 of their quarterfinal playoff series against Clinton Saturday.
Bounds then completed Tupelo’s second straight postseason sweep with a two-hit shutout in a 3-0 win in Game 2.
The Wave now meets the Horn Lake-Madison Central winner in the semifinals beginning with a single game Thursday.
“I told these guys they could not have given me a better birthday present,” said Tupelo coach Larry Harmon, who turns 38 today. “For them to come down here and sweep Clinton is a tremendous, tremendous accomplishment.”
Clinton (23-5) scored five two-out first-inning runs off Tupelo starter Mel McElroy, and Arrows’ starter Chad Case held the Wave without a hit until the fourth inning.
But Tupelo (25-9) scored five in the fourth and four more in the fifth, as Clinton committed an uncharacteristic four errors during that span.
“We had some players make some poor choices in the field,” Clinton coach Doug Hutton said. “We really hurt ourselves there.”
Loden relieved McElroy with a man on and one out in the fourth and quickly got two outs. He pitched scoreless relief for the next two innings before allowing two straight singles to start the seventh.
Third baseman Rudy Strahan came on and allowed a hit-batsman and a walk before Bounds came in with the bases jammed and a two-run lead with no outs. Tupelo’s Jeff Boyd made a diving catch in shallow right for the first out, and Bounds got the next two batters to fly to right.
“Boyd’s catch saved the first game,” said Harmon, whose team committed no errors in the doubleheader.
The Wave tied the game in the fourth with five runs on three hits, but the big play came from Clinton first baseman Josh Christian. Christian misplayed a ground ball to allow one run, then threw wild to the pitcher at first to allow a second run.
Clinton went back in front with three runs in the fourth, but Tupelo regained the lead in the fifth. Billy Curry had a two-run triple, and Clinton committed two more errors in the inning. Bounds was in complete control in Game 2, allowing just two singles, one walk and no runner to third base. In one stretch he retired 16 of 17 batters.
“Justin had an outstanding game,” Harmon said. “He changed speeds and just kept them off balance.”
Boyd scored two of Tupelo’s three runs. He singled in the second, then reached on an error, stole second and scored on Luke McAlpin’s single in the sixth.
Tupelo managed just four hits off Clinton’s Clint Farrar in Game 2.
“We just hit too many fly balls,” Hutton said. “The left-hander kept it down, and it was tailing away.”
TUPELO 11, CLINTON 9
Tupelo 000 540 2 – 11 6 0
Clinton 500 300 1 – 9 10 5
WP – Lee Loden. LP – Luke Gallespy. Save – Justin Bounds. Multiple Hits – (T) Billy Curry 3. (C) Jay Hutton, Clint Farrar, Chad Case, Josh Christian, Brooks Taylor. 2B – (C) Taylor. 3B – (T) Curry. (C) Christian. Records: (T) 24-9. (C) 23-4.
TUPELO 3, CLINTON 0
Tupelo 020 001 0 – 3 4 0
Clinton 000 000 0 – 0 2 2
WP – Justin Bounds. LP – Clint Farrar. Multiple Hits – (C) Chad Case. 2B – (T) Burney Hutchinson. Records: (T) 25-9. (C) 23-5.