By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
SHANNON – Tyler Beaty may be a slow starter. Fortunately for the New Albany High right-hander, his team’s offense made it easy for him on Tuesday night.
Before he stepped foot on the mound, the Bulldogs spotted their pitcher a three-run lead. By the fifth inning, he had a double-digit lead to work with.
And in a game the Bulldogs (13-5, 4-1) couldn’t afford to lose if they wanted to remain in the hunt for the MHSAA Division 1-4A title, Beaty and Co. would happily walk off Shannon’s Ralph Bruce Field with a 13-2 mercy-rule victory over the Red Raiders (10-6, 0-5).
The two teams will play again on Friday night in New Albany at 7.
“My offense backing me up had a lot to do with it, and just getting in a groove, getting the first couple of outs, getting on a roll,” Beaty said about being able to settle down after a shaky first inning. “They were backing me up hitting, and all I had to do was do my job because they were doing theirs.”
In the bottom of the first, Beaty walked the first three batters he faced and hit a batter. Ben Russell’s groundout to short, however, produced the Red Raiders’ only run of the inning.
From then on, the righty was nearly flawless, allowing only one more run (which was unearned) and one walk in improving to 4-2 on the year.
His three-hitter was backed by eight strikeouts.
“He’s kind of a notoriously slow starter at times,” said Bulldogs coach John Walker. “It just takes him a while to get a feel for the mound, get a feel for the strike zone.
“Once he got out of that first inning, he was pretty good. I thought his velocity was starting to climb back up in the later innings – a lot better than it was in the early innings – which kind of tells me that he wasn’t getting himself loose and ready to go early on.
“That’s something that we will address. I probably need to do a better job of monitoring him as he’s getting loose.”
But Walker didn’t have to worry too much about his senior pitcher. His team’s offense was ready to go from the start, led by Drew Wray, who went 4-for-4 with a double and two runs scored.
The Bulldogs tallied eight runs in the top of the fifth thanks to six walks (one intentional) and three hits. Joshua Googe had two hits in the inning.
With the win over Shannon and North Pontotoc’s 2-1 loss to Itawamba AHS on Tuesday night, the Bulldogs are now tied with North Pontotoc for the division lead.
That’s a big relief for the Bulldogs considering they blew a five-run lead on the road to Pontotoc on Friday night.
“A couple of mistakes in the seventh inning and they got the winning run,” Walker said, reflecting back to Friday’s 10-9 loss. “That kind of caused some problems as far as our mental toughness.
“When things like that start to go awry, a team that is mentally strong – which we try to be – is able to handle it. Right now, sometimes we can’t handle those things. But we’re getting there.”