By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Right up until the sixth inning of Friday afternoon’s Tupelo 49ers Invitational pool-play game, it was smooth sailing for the Corinth Post No. 6 team. That’s when the wheels came off.
Nursing a 6-4 lead through five innings, the Itawamba Cardinals struck Corinth starter Jake Beck for four runs in the top of the sixth and Corinth then saw two of its coaches ejected in the bottom half of the sixth for arguing a called third strike as the Cardinals went on to record a 12-7 victory at Golden Wave Field.
“We ran out of pitching,” said Corinth third baseman Ethan Gill, whose three-run, opposite-field shot to right in the bottom of the first gave Corinth an early lead, “and they ended up getting a lot of hits and scoring a lot of runs.
“We weren’t able to come back.”
Corinth didn’t have a full arsenal of arms to use in its 49ers Invitational opener due to several of the team’s players pitching in a high school summer-league tournament that concluded Thursday.
Beck (1-1) only allowed four runs and seven hits through five innings before the Cardinals got to him and reliever Caleb Reno for eight more runs and nine hits in the final two frames.
“I thought it was just a matter of time,” Cardinals manager Chad Cooley said of his team’s offense cranking up. “This year (in games), we either did well with the hitting or bad with the defense or vice versa.
“It’s just getting these kids to play together, and just playing good defense and having good timely hitting.”
The Cardinals received a three-run, game-winning homer to left in the bottom of the fifth from Cooley’s son, Chance, to defeat the North Stars 9-8 in their second game on Friday.
Mason Maxey had three of the Cardinals’ 16 hits and drove in two in the first game of the 49ers Invitational. Codi Taylor – one of six Cardinals’ hitters to register two hits – belted a three-run shot to center in the top of the seventh.
Jake Layman (1-0) relieved starter Matthew Prochaska with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the fifth. He yielded a run-scoring single to Drew Cristo before getting a double-play ball and a force out to end the threat.
Layman pitched a scoreless sixth before allowing two hits and a run in the seventh.
“Our pitchers did well other than giving up the two home runs … which hurt,” Cooley said. “Layman came in and closed it out.
“He needed to get in a little work today, get him back in shape. But he did a good job just throwing strikes and letting the defense play.”
Heath Wood had Corinth’s other homer with a two-run shot down the left-field line to give his team a 5-4 lead in the third.
Wood drove in his third run – and Corinth’s last – with a two-out double to right in the last half of the seventh.