Larry Harmon says his team plays well with its back to the wall.
Welcome again to the wall.
Pascagoula jumped on Tupelo in the first inning and never let the Golden Wave in the game in an 8-0 win in Game 1 of the Class 5A championship series at Tupelo Wednesday before an estimated crowd of 1,000.
Game 2 in the best-of-three series is at 1 p.m. Saturday at Pascagoula with a third game to follow, if necessary.
The Panthers (30-4) came to town with a reputation for strong pitching, but Pascagoula had four runs before starting pitcher Blair Varnes threw his first pitch. The Panthers roughed up Tupelo starter Chad Iverson for four runs on five hits in the first inning.
The first three Pascagoula batters doubled, one to each side of Tupelo center fielder Luke McAlpin and one over his head. All three scored. Justin Black scored the fourth Pascagoula run on a bunt single by Jonathan Broadus.
Iverson (4-5) retired the Panthers in order in the second but gave up three runs on a pair of hits in the third.
Pascagoula coach Johnny Olsen said the first inning outburst enabled his team to do other things.
“When you get four or five runs in the first like that it’s like getting a two-touchdown lead,” he said. “It gave us more confidence, and we could do more things. We were able to hit and run some, and it took some pressure off our defense.”
Actually Varnes took some pressure off his defense, too. In moving his record to 14-0 the junior right-hander did not allow a Tupelo runner to third base. The Wave (27-11) put the ball in play against Varnes but managed only singles by Burney Hutchinson and Duncan Foster.
“We were not intimidated by their pitching,” Harmon said. “We’ve seen good pitching, and we felt like we could hit it. We put the ball in play, and they made the plays on defense.”
Varnes, who has allowed just one earned run in his last 26 innings, was pulled after the fifth inning. John Jordan got the last six outs for Pascagoula, giving up only a seventh inning walk.
Varnes was also an offensive weapon. Batting third in the order, he had an RBI double in the big first inning and added another run-scoring double in the sixth.
Olsen expects more offense from Tupelo in Game 2.
“When you score six runs in the last inning like they did (against Madison Central) … we know they’re not going to give up. They’re going to take their swings and put it in play,” he said.
Harmon also expects a better day for his team Saturday.
“What happened today was Pascagoula played well, and we did not play well,” Harmon said. “We have the opportunity to go down there and win this thing. All we have to do is play like we are capable because they are going to play well.
“And we have played well when our backs have been against the wall.”
Pascagoula 8, Tupelo 0
Pascagoula 403 001 0 – 8 12 0
Tupelo 000 000 0 – 0 2 2
WP – Blair Varnes (14-0). LP – Chad Iverson (4-5). Multiple Hits – (P) Enrico Jones, Chris Fishburn, Varnes, Jonathan Broadus. 2B – (P) Jones, Fishburn, Varnes, Jared Becker. Records: Tupelo 27-11. Pascagoula 30-4.