PEARL – The Sumrall High Bobcats are just a win away from perfection.
Sumrall out-slugged South Pontotoc 10-4 in Thursday’s Game 1 of the MHSAA Class 3A state championship series in front of 1,300 fans at Trustmark Park in Pearl. In the process, they improved to 35-0 for the season.
“They deserve credit,” said South Pontotoc head coach Bryan Buckner. “They came out and hit the ball.
“We didn’t play South Pontotoc baseball.”
The Cougars (22-14) were only trailing by three runs heading into the bottom of the sixth.
But Buckner wasn’t pleased with his teams’s effort against a team ranked 14th in the nation by Baseball America.
“We came in on our heels,” Buckner said. “I expect more out of this bunch from what I’ve watched in the last five to six weeks.”
With that being said, Buckner had to be pleased with his team coming right back to tie the Bobcats in the top of the second.
Trailing 2-0 after one, the Cougars’ received RBI singles from Sam Cruse and Jermaine Bean to tie the game in the top of the second.
“I think we gained a little confidence from that ballgame,” Buckner said. “They’re human over there.”
On Saturday at 1 p.m., Buckner’s squad will again have to face a potent offense that generated 12 hits on Thursday night. Everybody in the Bobcats’ starting lineup had at least one base hit.
“Everybody contributed tonight and that’s really good for us,” said Sumrall coach Larry Knight. “We’ve had to ride certain hitters and certain pitchers this season.
“Tonight everybody played a part. It was a team effort.”
South Pontotoc starter Sam Cruse (9-5) was hit with the loss as he couldn’t make it out of the fourth inning. He allowed seven runs (six earned), nine hits and walked six batters before being lifted with two outs in the fourth inning.
Lance Carter finished the game for the Cougars, giving up three runs on three hits and issuing three bases on balls.
Cruse’s counterpart, Bobcats starter Luke Lowery, picked up his 10th win and remained undefeated by pitching 51/3 innings. He allowed four runs, five hits and six walks.
South Pontotoc cut its deficit to 7-4 with single runs in the fourth and sixth innings. Heath Kitchens had an RBI single in the fourth and Justin Dillard had an RBI groundout in the sixth.Chase Lewallen came on and shut the Cougars down for his first save of the year.
South Pontotoc only had five hits on the night.
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal