By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Stephen Sexton and his Tupelo Christian Prep teammates want to avoid a second-round exit this season in the state playoffs.
“We’ve been put out the last two years in the second round,” said the Eagles’ junior outfielder. “We’re looking to change that.”
TCPS, which got help from Sexton’s bat, needs one more victory to advance to the 1A state baseball quarterfinals. The Eagles, behind a 13-hit attack, defeated visiting Myrtle 12-2 in 41/2 innings Thursday in the opening game of their second-round, best-of-three game playoff series.
Sexton plated four of his team’s runs with a double, single and a sacrifice fly. J.G. Lipscomb led the Eagles with three singles from his leadoff spot. Drew Carter added a double and pitcher Tucker Akin contributed a triple.
“We’ve hit the ball well most of season,” Sexton said. “We got after them today.”
The second game of the best-of-three series between the Eagles (15-9) and Hawks (16-9) is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. today at Myrtle. The third game, if necessary, would be played Saturday in Tupelo.
The winner of series would advance to next week’s state quarterfinals series against Thrasher or West Union.
Akin, a junior left-hander, was steady on the mound for TCPS. He scattered four hits – one a solo homer by Myrtle’s Brandon Perkins in the fourth inning – and struck out five.
“He located well, kept the ball low and got groundballs,” TCPS coach Will Lowrey said. “Myrtle does a great job at the plate. They don’t strikeout. They put the ball in play.”
Akin was pleased with his outing.
“I pitched well. Myrtle can really swing the bat at 3, 4, 5 and 6,” he said. “They are a solid ball club.”
The Eagles made just one error behind Akin. It was quite a change from last week’s six-error defensive showing in an 8-4 regular-season loss to Kossuth.
Lowrey put his team to work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in practice to get them focused for the postseason.
“We got back to the fundamentals and it paid off,” he said. “Our infield played a lot better today.”
In Thursday’s game, the Eagles took a 3-0 lead in the first inning, then added a five in the third. Sexton and Carter each doubled in two runs apiece in the fourth.