MADISON Standing sweating and smiling on the outfield grass, Tupelo baseball coach Larry Harmon was unable to explain his team’s six-run seventh inning rally Monday in mere mortal terms.
“The Lord did not want Tupelo to lose today,” he said.
The Lord was not disappointed. The Golden Wave scored six runs on three hits, six walks and a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning to beat Madison Central 12-11 in Game 3 of the Class 5A semifinal series.
Tupelo will meet Pascagoula for the 5A championship. The Mississippi High School Activities Association will allow Tupelo to begin the series Wednesday at home, as opposed to playing today as originally scheduled.
While Harmon claimed divine intervention, Madison Central coach Mike Rosamond saw a definite human influence.
“Our pitching just fell apart,” he said. “We couldn’t throw strikes and make them hit the ball with a five-run lead.”
The Jaguars (23-12) built their five-run lead at the expense of Tupelo freshman Justin Bounds, who no-hit them Thursday. The Jaguars scored once in the second, stopping at 20 Bounds’ playoff streak of scoreless innings.
Madison Central got seven runs in the fourth, four coming off a two-out, two-strike grand slam by shortstop Michael Rosamond.
Eighth-grader Reed Hawkins relieved Bounds in the fifth. He gave up two runs but pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh for the win. The Wave (27-10) began the seventh trailing 11-6.
Jeff Boyd led off with a walk and later scored on a wild pitch. Eighth-grader Jonathan Bell walked, and Jason Miller followed with a single. Bell and courtesy runner Luke McAlpin scored on Jason Long’s double to the left field corner to make it 11-9.
“Coach Harmon told us to play with our hearts,” said Long of the late-game comeback. “We had to want it. We had to refuse to lose.”
Long scored the 10th run on a wild pitch. Andy Williamson, who had singled, scored the tying run on Rudy Strahan’s sacrifice fly to the wall in center. Burney Hutchinson, who had walked, scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.
“Once we got into their bullpen our scouting report said their other guys weren’t as good,” Harmon said. “When we got runners on base, it put pressure on their defense.”
The Golden Wave was six outs from a berth in the finals in the first game but lost 10-6.
Tupelo had rallied from a 3-0 deficit for a 6-3 lead, but Madison Central scored seven runs in the sixth on just three hits. There were four walks, two hit-batsmen and three errors surrendered by the Golden Wave. Tupelo used four different pitchers in the inning.
The 11th-hour collapse kept the Wave from pinning the first loss on Madison Central left-hander Jason Schemmel (12-0), a Southern Mississippi signee.
There was no sign of Schemel as the Jaguars used five pitchers in the second game.
“This was just a tremendous team win,” Harmon said. “Everybody, from Coach (Ken) Smith, the players, managers … everybody had a part.”
Tupelo 000 042 0 – 6 5 4
Madison Central 003 007 X – 10 8 4
WP – Jason Schemmel (12-0). LP – Chad Iverson. Multiple Hits – (T) Andy Williamson. 2B – (T) Jason Long. 3B – (T) Jeff Boyd. HR – (MC) Michael Rosamond.
Tupelo 000 411 6 – 12 10 2
Madison Central 011 720 0 – 11 11 1
WP – Reed Hawkins. LP – Chris Dean. Multiple Hits – (T) Jason Long 3, Andy Williamson 3. (MC) Michael Williams, Mitchell Williams, Michael Rosamond, Nathan Rives. 2B – (T) Long. (MC) Rives, Ken Barden. HR – (T) Rudy Strahan. (MC) Rosamond, Mitchell Williams. Records: Tupelo 27-10. Madison Central 23-12.