By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
PONTOTOC – There were still numerous playoff questions that remained in Division 1-4A entering Tuesday’s slate of games.
The North Pontotoc Vikings and Pontotoc Warriors were involved in the hunt for those answers, and it was Pontotoc which found the positive statement it was seeking.
Blake O’Callaghan survived some early pitching difficulty, and provided some punch with a three-run home run that propelled the Warriors into a playoff spot with a 13-3 victory.
“I just told the team before the game this was a game that could punch us into the playoffs,” said Pontotoc coach Phil Webb, whose Warriors did lock up a playoff berth with the win. “We showed a lot of composure after North Pontotoc came out and hit the ball early.
“We relaxed and got back in the game.”
Pontotoc’s only division loss to this point had been to the Vikings, who needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. And the visitors were swinging early like they needed this contest.
Some early problems
North Pontotoc (7-14, 3-5) touched O’Callaghan for three first-inning runs, with consecutive two-out hits by Devin Robbins, Ethan Flake, and Hayden Stegall plating runs for a 3-0 lead.
But the senior-dominated team that it is, Pontotoc (17-4, 7-1) did not panic and responded with three runs of its own in the bottom of the inning, including an RBI single by Ethan Gill.
With the offensive support, O’Callaghan (6-1) settled down and scattered three hits over the next five innings, keeping the Vikings off-balance.
A leadoff double in the second inning by Andrew Bell helped Pontotoc score twice, and O’Callaghan belted his three-run home run to left in the third.
Pontotoc then added four in the fifth inning, including a two-run hit by Kaleb Kennedy, and ended the contest in the sixth on a double by Jake Smithey, who later scored on a throwing error.
“Myles Synder was having trouble finding the strike zone, and Pontotoc could just sit there and wait for a good pitch,” North Pontotoc coach Chad Anthony said. “Myles has been a bulldog for us all year.”
Pontotoc will face another team fighting for a playoff spot Friday when it faces New Albany. The Warriors then face two of Northeast Mississippi’s top teams in non-division play, facing Amory on Saturday and Tupelo on Monday.