PEARL – South Pontotoc High School’s attempt to play the spoiler role was thwarted early on by the Sumrall hitters.
With an undefeated season on the line, the Sumrall High baseball team jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first inning and cruised to an 11-1 mercy-rule shortened win in Saturday’s Game 2 of the MHSAA Class 3A state championship series.
In front of 1,200 fans at Trustmark Park, Saturday’s victory in six innings capped off a two-game sweep for Sumrall, which defeated the Cougars 10-4 in Thursday’s Game 1.
The Bobcats’ 36-0 season is the first undefeated season in Mississippi high school baseball since 1996 when New Hope went 43-0 – a United States record that still hasn’t been broken.
“I think they’re definitely in the top three between some of the New Hope teams, Tupelo teams, and Pascagoula teams that I’ve seen,” said South Pontotoc coach Bryan Buckner, a former New Hope assistant who coached previously at Gulfport.
A 35-minute rain delay that pushed back Saturday’s start time couldn’t even slow down the Bobcats, who sent eight batters to the plate in the top of the first. Jackson Posey hit a three-run homer to left and the Bobcats added another run on a wild pitch to make it 4-0 before the Cougars had their first at-bats.
“One-through-nine, they’re just hard outs every time,” Buckner said.
South Pontotoc starting pitcher Heath Kitchens did manage to pitch three scoreless innings after that four-run first inning. Kitchens (7-6), however, couldn’t make it out of the fifth as Sumrall tagged him for five more runs to take a commanding 9-0 lead.
“These guys have been relentless the whole year,” Sumrall head coach Larry Knight said of his team.
The South Pontotoc senior allowed nine runs – only four were earned though – on eight hits, two walks and a hit batsman. Four errors behind him certainly didn’t help him either.
Tanner Luttrell relieved Kitchens with one out in the fifth and finished the game for the Cougars. He didn’t fare much better, allowing two runs in the top of the sixth.
“These last two games are not indicative of our season, but we played a good team,” said Buckner, whose team ended the season at 22-15.
South Pontotoc finally got on the board in the bottom of the fifth when Seth Roye’s single up the middle scored Jermaine Bean from third.
On Saturday, the Cougars would strand three runners on third base.
“We had a chance to go up and watch them play,” Knight said, “and they impressed us. They really did.
“They swung the bats. They swung early in the count.”
The pitcher shutting down the South Pontotoc hitters on Saturday was Jared Miller. The Sumrall senior allowed only three hits and two walks in finishing the season at 11-0. He struck out eight on the day.
South Pontotoc “got hot at the right time, but we stayed hot the whole year,” Knight said.
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal