By GENE PHELPS
PETAL – Tupelo 49ers outfielder J.G. Miley was awarded the MVP plaque Monday for his aggressive, productive play in the American Legion State Tournament.
Moments after his team’s 14-6 victory against Pontotoc in the championship game at Petal High School stadium, Miley’s coach – Kirk Presley – praised the entire team for its determined play all summer and in the postseason.
“They’ve been coming out every day this season and getting after it,” a soaked Presley said, seconds after getting a Gatorade shower. “They all play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.
“This game rewards those who play it the right way.”
Tupelo (19-9), which swept through the state tournament with three consecutive wins, qualified for the American Legion MidSouth Regional, Aug. 8-12 in Little Rock, Ark.
‘Playing the game right’
Miley, who went 6-for-13 in three games, was 3-for-5 against Pontotoc and had a stolen base. In Saturday’s win against Booneville, he was 3-for-5 with a double and scored from second base on a sacrifice bunt by Hayden Williams.
“If you’re not hustling, you’re not playing the game right,” Miley said. “Baseball’s a humbling game and you have to respect it.”
Tupelo came out swinging against the rival Red Sox, collecting five hits and a 4-0 lead in the first inning off starter Ryan Watts. Williams and Destin Hahn had doubles for the 49ers.
A four-hit third inning gave Tupelo a 9-0 lead. Miley, Michael Hensley, Michael Ray and Tucker Jenkins all had singles.
Despite their big lead, the 49ers kept the pressure on. Tanner Poole led the way with four singles.
“You still try to win every inning,” Presley said. “Pontotoc is a good-hitting team. You can’t go to cruise control against a team like them.”
Pontotoc (23-6), which won two games Sunday in the loser’s bracket to reach the finals, had a four-run fourth inning on five hits, all singles, by Andrew Lambert, Denny Springer, Caleb Gowen, Stephen Sexton and Landon Tutor.
The Sox added two in the fifth to trail 11-6, but got no closer.