By David Wheeler/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
SALTILLO – In a battle of young pitching staffs, the North Pontotoc Vikings had the edge Friday afternoon in the Saltillo Tournament.
Sophomore Colby Graham hurled a complete six innings for the Vikings, helping his team to a 10-5 victory over former division rival the Itawamba AHS Indians.
“We’re young on the mound, but I feel pretty good when we throw strikes because of our defense,” North Pontotoc head coach Chad Anthony said. “We had a good effort out of our pitcher, and we hit the ball.”
With the contest only going six innings because of the tournament time limit, Graham scattered four hits, and did not allow any runs until his last two innings.
North Pontotoc (6-3) took until the third inning to break through against Itawamba (4-7) starter Andrew McDonald, who only pitched three innings. The Vikings plated two runs in the bottom of the third on only one hit.
But that set the Vikings up for the fourth frame, where they scored six times. North Pontotoc collected six hits in the at bat, with Trey Jolly and Graham each responsible for two-run singles in the frame to push the lead to 8-0 at that point.
“We’re just not playing real good right now,” said Itawamba head coach Brian Long, who pitched two freshmen, a sophomore, and a junior in this contest. “We’re finally starting to swing the bat, but I feel we’re a better team right now than we’re showing.”
The Indians finally broke through on the scoreboard in the top of the fifth inning, scoring twice on two infield ground outs. Itawamba backed that up in the sixth with three runs, two on a double by Cole Haynes.
North Pontotoc had padded its lead in the bottom of the fifth with a pair of runs on a ground out and an RBI double by Jolly.
“We certainly threw a lot of young guys this week,” said Long, whose team went 1-4 during spring break. “One said today that he was a little nervous out there.
“Maybe next time he’s on the mound, he won’t be.”
In the season opener for both clubs, Itawamba had defeated North Pontotoc in the Tupelo Classic.