Seldom-used 49ers arms get work before tourney

By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

CORINTH – It was not the typical use of pitching by Corinth head coach Dale Bain.
In his team’s last regular-season game before the American Legion State Tournament, Bain had David Wilbanks start Tuesday night against the Tupelo 49ers and Jordan Gurley finish.
Wilbanks had not pitched in four years, while Gurley isn’t even a member of this year’s Corinth team and happened to be playing in a softball game before pitching the last two innings of Tuesday’s 15-5 loss to Tupelo at Corinth’s Jesse Bynum Field.
“He did a fine job,” Bain said of Wilbanks’ outing on Tuesday night. “We were proud of him on the job that he did.”
The recent Corinth High graduate pitched 31/3 innings, allowing nine runs and five hits while walking two and hitting two. He was also the victim of two errors behind him.
Brandon Woodruff and Maikhail Miller launched back-to-back solo shots to left field off Wilbanks to start the top of the third.
Wilbanks was relieved by Jake Johnson the following inning. Johnson pitched Corinth through the sixth inning, allowing only one run in the process.
Phillip Quinn pitched the seventh inning and into the bottom of the eighth where he couldn’t get the first two hitters out. Gurley came on, and the floodgates opened back up for Tupelo in the eighth with five runs.
“That was kind of a deal that (Tupelo coach) Kirk (Presley) and I discussed,” Bain said. “Jordan was over here playing softball, and Jordan came up and said, ‘I can pitch in it if you want me to.’
“So, I asked Kirk and Kirk said, ‘Yeah, we would like to see some heat.'”
Gurley, who is a rising sophomore at Northeast Mississippi Community College, missed the age cutoff to be eligible to play American Legion Baseball by about six months.
Since his team is rather young and doesn’t feature a wide variety of arms, Bain decided to save his best pitchers for this weekend’s state tournament at Pontotoc High School. Corinth takes on the Hattiesburg Junior team on Friday afternoon at 1.
Tupelo (24-5), meanwhile, was able to use three pitchers to get the job done on Tuesday night. Kirk Roberts pitched three innings of relief to improve to 2-0 on the season. He helped his team out at the plate with three hits, one RBI and a run scored.
Drew Wheeler drew the start for Tupelo, pitching three scoreless innings in which he allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out two.
Jake Scott finished the game for the 49ers, who play the Hattiesburg Senior team in an opening-round game of the state tournament at 4:30 Friday afternoon in Pontotoc.
Drew Cristo and Tanner McCollum led Corinth (5-13) with three hits. McCollum, who homered to left, finished a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.