HED:Tupelo wins wild one with Houston, 14-8
By Gregg Ellis
HOUSTON – Tupelo rediscovered its bats Friday and withstood a comedy of errors to advance to the championship game of the American Junior Legion District Tournament with a 14-8 win over Houston.
After managing just five hits against Houlka Tuesday, Tupelo collected 11 hits and now faces the winner between Hatley and Houston at 4 p.m. If Tupelo wins, it advances to the state tournament next week at New Albany. If it loses, it has to play another game in this double-elimination tournament, with the winner headed to New Albany.
” I’m very glad to get this win,” said Tupelo coach Todd Sandroni. “Houston is a much improved team from the first time we played them. They are swinging the bats really well.
“We’re in the driver seat,” he added. “But we can’t quit.”
Although both teams combined for 22 hits, they also produced nine errors, led by Houston’s five. And while Houston had no problem putting runners on the bases, it stranded nine, compared to Tupelo’s five.
“It was just one of those games.” Sandroni said. “This is unusual for us to have this many errors.”
Tupelo didn’t waste any time getting on the scoreboard, scoring four runs each in the first and second inning.
Tupelo took an early 1-0 lead off a single by Kevin Caldwell that scored Aaron Knowles from second. Caldwell later scored on a wild pitch, and Tupelo added two more runs for a 4-0 lead.
Houston answered in the bottom of the inning with two runs. Kenny Hicks doubled to rightfield to score Courtney Gates and with two outs, he latered scored on a wild pitch.
Tupelo extended its lead in the second to 8-2, highlighted by a two-run shot over the right-fence wall by Bo Baxter. Tupelo added two more in the third for a 10-2 lead.
“It was a fastball right down the middle of the plate,” said Baxter of his fifth home run of the season. “I knew it was gone just as soon as I hit it.”
Houston rallied in the bottom of the inning, scoring four runs. After Marshall Faulkner scored on a throwing error, Terrell Harrell nailed a two-run shot four batters laters to close the gap to 10-5. Houston’s John Hardin, who reached after being hit by Tupelo pitcher Sparky Smith, later scored on another Tupelo error.
Tupelo extended its lead 11-2 lead on a solo homer by Kenard Springer in the fourth. But, Houston refused to go down in defeat quietly.
Down 11-6 in the sixth, Houston scored two more runs, with Hicks and Faulkner crossing the plates.
Tupelo, now 29-5, added three insurance runs in the seventh, highlighted by a two-run shot by Aaron Knowles
Tupelo got a complete-game performance from Sparky Smith, who threw 11 strikeouts to pick improve his record to 8-0.
“I’m glad to get the win and get to the championship game,” Smith said. “We know we’ll have to play better to win. We had a lot of errors, but came up with some big plays defensively.”
Houston, which dropped to 27-12, plays Hatley today at 2 p.m. in the elimination game.
“I’m proud of our intensity,” said Houston assistant coach Brian Hicks. “Had we made a few more routine plays, the outcome might have been different.
Tupelo x, Houston x
Tupelo 442 100 3 – 14 11 4
Houston 204 002 0 – 8 11 5
WP – Sparky Smith (8-0). LP – Jay Hardin. Multiple hits – (T) Aaron Knowles, Kenard Springer, Bo Baxter, Sam McDuffie. (H) Kenny Hicks, Jerome Mabry2B – (T) Sam McDuffie(H) Kenny Hicks. 3B – . HR – (T) Aaron Knowles, Bo Baxter, Kenard Springer. (H) Terrell Harrell.
Records: Tupelo, 29-5. Houston, 27-12.
Notes: Tupelo plays the winner between Hatley and Houston at 4 p.m.