By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
SALTILLO – Tupelo Christian Prep pitcher Will Cockrell’s fastball was motoring Saturday, but his coach, Will Lowrey, kept calling for him to apply the brakes.
“It’s imperative for Will to get his off-speed pitches over,” Lowrey said. “That’s big for Will. He can’t just sit back and chunk fastballs.
“I kept calling breaking balls until he found it.”
Cockrell, whose fastball was clocked in the high 80s in the first inning, fired a two-hitter and recorded six strikeouts to lead the Eagles to a 7-1 six-inning victory against Houston in the Saltillo Spring Classic.
“I ended up getting comfortable with (my curve),” said Cockrell (2-1), a senior right-hander. “I like the movement I got on it. It was working toward the end.”
Cockrell got all the runs he needed in the first inning thanks to back-to-back solo home runs from Drew Carter and Stephen Sexton.
Carter added an RBI double in the Eagles’ four-run second inning off Houston starter Cole Eldridge. Carter added another double in the sixth and had a sacrifice fly in the fourth.
“We talk about going up there looking to hit instead of waiting on the perfect pitch,” said TCPS’s junior third baseman. “I got a 2-0 pitch right down the middle (on the homer).”
Cockrell added two singles while Andrew Soper and Zach Bridges singled for the Eagles. Jacob Shempert doubled in the fifth for the Hilltoppers (6-4).
TCPS (7-2), a Class 1A school, has beaten two 3A teams – Booneville, Nettleton – and one 4A school – Houston – during the last week. The team’s loss this last week was to 4A Shannon.
“This week was a test for us,” Lowrey said. “TCPS has never played a schedule like we have this year. To win three of four against 3A and 4A, that’s beautiful, we’ll take that any day.
“We challenge these kids to get better and better every day. Our goal is the playoffs.”
The Eagles are 2-1 in Division 4 play and return to league action Tuesday against West Oktibbeha.
“We need to keep working and keep proving it to ourselves and all those who doubted us because we’re the smallest school in the state,” Carter said.