FULTON New Hope proved that its juggernaut is for real, if anybody had any doubts.
Itawamba AHS pitcher Jamie Rock struck out 17 batters and still lost to the New Hope Trojans 13-2 at City Park in Fulton Thursday.
“They are not 40-0 for no reason at all,” IAHS Indian coach Brian Long said after the first game of the best-of-three North Mississippi Class 4A semifinal series. “Jamie deserves a better outcome than that. He did a great job.”
Itawamba AHS (26-7) travels to New Hope Saturday for the second game at 1 p.m. with the third game, if needed, immediately following. The Trojans extended their state record single season winning streak to 40 games and moved within a win of tying Iuka’s record of 41 wins in a season.
“Jamie did a pretty incredible job of striking out our hitters like that,” New Hope coach Stacey Hester said. “But it seemed like in critical situations that we would get some breaks or some key hits.”
Rock said, “They have a real good hitting team. I feel like if I hadn’t had my curve ball on I would have been out of there in the first inning.”
New Hope took the lead for good with a two-run Scott Atwood home run in the three-run second. But Itawamba closed the gap to 3-2 with Rock’s RBI triple in the third and an unearned run in the fourth when Adam Lesley scored as the Trojan center fielder misplayed Dyonne Gibson’s single.
It wasn’t until the fifth inning that the game got away from IAHS. New Hope scored three runs on a pair of wild pitches and the first of the five Itawamba errors that led to six unearned runs.
Rock struck out the side four times. He had four strikeouts in both the sixth and seventh innings. The batter reaching on passed ball strikeouts led to five runs.
Rock drew had at least one strikeout on every batter in the Trojan lineup except Robert Shelton, who reached five times and was 3-for-3 against Rock.
“I really wanted to strike Robert out (in the seventh),” Rock said. “I had him down 1-2 and came outside on him, but he blooped it over third base for a double.”
He drove in the final two runs before Rock picked up strikeout No. 17.
The New Hope pitcher, Jeff Hunter (15-0), was dominating, striking out 11 batters and giving up only six hits.
“He kept us off balance. It seemed like he threw 40 different pitches,” said Rock, who came into the game hitting .515.
Hunter stranded four IAHS runners in scoring positions with three strikeouts and a groundout in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
Hester said, “Itawamba has some real good hitters and when he made some mistakes they got on. But I thought he got some real big outs when they had a chance to make a move.”
New Hope 13, Itawamba AHS 2
New Hope 030 035 2 13 12 3
Itawamba AHS 001 100 0 2 6 5
WP – Jeff Hunter (15-0). LP – Jamie Rock (12-3). Multiple Hits – (N) Robert Shelton 3, Matt Price 2, Rob McKay 3; (I) Bryan Loague 2, Adam Lesley 2. 2B – (N) Shelton, McKay. 3B – (I) Rock. HR- (N) Scott Atwood. Records: New Hope 40-0, Itawamba AHS 26-7.
Notes: Rock struck out 17; Hunter struck out 11. Game 2 is at 1 p.m. Saturday at New Hope with Game 3 immediately after, if needed.