By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
PONTOTOC – As part of a very potent offensive lineup, Lawrence Rakestraw had not contributed a home run for the Pontotoc Warriors this season.
Leading off the bottom of the eighth inning, the junior first baseman quickly deposited a pitch over the right-centerfield wall to give the Warriors a much-needed lift and a 5-4 Division 1-4A victory over the New Albany Bulldogs.
“We got beat in the ninth inning on Tuesday, so this was big,” Pontotoc coach Phil Webb said. “Every night is big in this division.
“Everybody is beating everybody, so you had better come and play every night.”
New Albany (10-7-1, 2-2) came out playing early, scoring four runs in the first three innings.
The Bulldogs got two runs in the top of the first off a single by Taylor Goode. New Albany then added a pair in the third frame on a couple of Pontotoc miscues.
Meanwhile the Warriors (12-3-1, 3-1) responded in the first inning with a solo home run by Blake O’Callaghan to left. Then in the third, Pontotoc squeezed across a pair of runs on back-to-back fielders choices.
Pontotoc then pulled even in the fifth inning on a Blake Littlejohn line shot over the left-field fence.
“We stayed with it tonight,” Webb said. “We had some adversity early on, but the guys stayed patient.
“Then we tied it in the fifth, and had a chance in the seventh.”
Pontotoc’s chance in the bottom of the seventh inning was set up without a hit, but some aggressive base running helped to load the bases with one out. New Albany starter Andrew Tunnell pitched out of the jam by inducing a pop and a grounder.
Based on Tuesday’s result, Pontotoc could have wilted at that point going into another extra-inning contest, but reliever Jon Michael Hannon took over from starter O’Callaghan and pitched an aggressive and quick top of the eighth to pour water on any New Albany momentum.
“Top to bottom, I would argue this is the best division in any class,” first-year New Albany coach John Walker said. “I was saying this was a game of high’s and low’s, and we were flying high after getting out of the seventh.