By D.E. Wheeler
NEW ALBANY – Everything seemed just a bit out of reach Monday for the Tupelo 49ers Junior American Legion baseball team.
The baseball, on little bloop singles when Tupelo was in the field, or on a curve ball breaking over the outside of the plate against 49ers batters.
And just out of reach was a state championship as the Oak Grove Warriors did what was required at the New Albany Sportsplex to win the state tournament title game, 10-6, over Tupelo.
“We should have made some plays today,” Tupelo head coach Mark Enis said of how close the 49ers came to winning this game. “You can’t give a good team extra outs in an inning, that was the big thing.
“Good teams capitalize on that.”
After a couple of bloop singles and a solid double by Todd Siders had given Oak Grove a 2-0 lead in the first inning, Tupelo capitalized on some offensive momentum built up from play Sunday.
In the bottom of the second inning, Tupelo scored one run on three hits, but did leave the bases loaded. In the third, a two-run home run by Jonathan Hancock gave Tupelo a 3-2 lead.
“I thought Tupelo might be a little tired after playing two games yesterday, but they played with a lot of desire,” Oak Grove head coach Jonathan Robertson said. “After Tupelo took the lead, our kids battled back.
“They put the ball in play and did what it takes.”
The fourth inning produced no runs for either team, but a solo run by Oak Grove in the top of the fifth tied the contest at 3-3. Oak Grove then made a decisive move in the sixth inning scoring three runs with the help of a Tupelo error and a wild pitch to take a 6-3 lead.
Hancock led off the bottom of the sixth with a double, then scored to cut that margin to 6-4. Oak Grove then appeared to clinch the victory with four more runs in the seventh inning with the help of two Tupelo errors and a wild pitch.
But Tupelo threatened in the last of the seventh inning, scoring two runs with one out and loading the bases with two outs. But Oak Grove reliever Barrett Coco, who entered the contest in the second inning and had confused Tupelo batters with his slow curve, struck out the last Tupelo batter to clinch the win.
“He was a breaking ball pitcher, and we didn’t do a good job staying back and hitting the ball the other way,” Enis said. “That’s what baseball is about, making adjustments, and we didn’t do that.”
Tupelo needed to beat Oak Grove twice Monday to win the state championship.
Tupelo finished the season at 31-6 while Oak Grove improved to 24-4, and moved on to a Junior American Legion regional in early August.
Oak Grove 10, Tupelo 6
Oak Grove 200 013 4 – 10 10 1
Tupelo 012 001 2 – 6 9 4
WP: Barrett Coca. LP: Will Kline. Multiple Hits: (OG) Bailey Hortel 2, Todd Siders 3; (T) Jonathan Hancock 3, John Harrison 2, Andrew Bennett 2. 2B: (OG) Charlie Peterson, Siders; (T) Hancock, Harrison, Mack Pettit. 3B: (OG) Kyle Sellers. HR: (T) Hancock.
Records: Oak Grove 24-4, Tupelo 31-6.
Notes: Oak Grove wins the Junior American Legion State Championship for Mississippi.