By Jay Tidwell/Special to the Journal
PONTOTOC – Lawrence Rakestraw bats near the bottom of Pontotoc’s lineup and says he’s had quite a bit of difficulty at the plate despite the Warrior’s impressive run on the diamond this season.
But Thursday night, Rakestraw led the way as the big hits poured in.
Rakestraw, Pontotoc’s right-handed hitting shortstop, slugged a three-run home run in the bottom of the fourth to break open a scoreless tie and boost the Warriors to an 8-0 win in the opening match of the first round of Class 4A North baseball playoffs.
Game 2 is scheduled for tonight at 6 p.m. in Louisville. Pontotoc’s Kaleb Kennedy (7-1) will take the mound for the Region 1-4A champs and face the Wildcats’ Brock Ward.
“Hitting the ball has been a struggle at times,”said Rakestraw, a junior, “but I was able to come through with a big hit.amp”
After Rakestraw’s homerun, Jon Michael Hannon added a two-run shut to center, and Blake O’Callaghan belted an RBI double to complete the six-run frame.
“We finally got the big hits,” said Pontotoc coach Phil Webb, whose squad improved to 22-5, including winning 10-of-12 during April. “He’s (Rakestraw) had two home runs. One of them was a walk-off home run against New Albany (a 5-4 win in eight innings on April 1), and this one was as big as the one he hit against New Albany.
“It ended up being all we needed, and that’s good coming from a guy hitting in the seventh slot.”
The cushion was more than enough for Pontotoc’s starter, O’Callaghan, who logged his fifth complete game and third shutout of the season.
“That got the ball rolling and made it a lot easier to pitch,” said O’Callaghan, a senior southpaw. “I just went right after them.amp”
O’Callaghan (8-1) struck out six and held Louisville, the second seed from Region 4-4A, to six hits – all singles. The Wildcats (13-13) had been held scoreless only once before – a 6-0 road loss to Amory on March 9.
Hannon, a senior centerfielder, doubled up the middle with two out in the fifth to score Brock Tutor and Canden Dallas to finish the scoring.
“It was a tight ballgame until they got the two big hits – the three-run home run and then the two-run home run,” said Louisville coach Justin Reed. “That killed us. We tried to fight through it, but just didn’t quite overcome it.amp”
Ryan Shotts (5-4), a right-handed junior, took the loss for the Wildcats, giving up six earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. He faced nine batters in the fourth before being relieved by Quarvis Jernigan.