MOOREVILLE – Rex Berryman knows baseball is all about opportunities, and he wants his Mooreville Troopers to take advantage of the one in front of them.
With his team’s turnaround Friday night, the Mooreville head baseball coach couldn’t be happier.
The Troopers hit four home runs and collected 13 hits en route to a 15-6 victory over the South Pontotoc Cougars (21-13) to even the best-of-3 MHSAA Class 3A North championship at Bud Tally Field.
The deciding third game of the series will be played at South Pontotoc today at 1, with the winner earning a berth in the state championship series.
One night after stranding the bases loaded in a 14-11 loss at South Pontotoc, the Troopers came through with the clutch hits. Ben Kingsley belted a three-run home run in the first inning, while Taylor Dickerson and Drew Wheeler hit back-to-back roundtrippers to begin the third inning as Mooreville opened a 10-0 lead.
Chad Armstrong added a three-run shot to highlight a five-run fifth inning for the Troopers (24-11).
“Great hitters go 3-for-10. You’ve just got to take your turn and do your best,” said Berryman, whose Troopers seek to return to the state championship series after claiming the runner-up spot last season. “We’re proud to be in the position we’re in. We’re playing for the finals and we would be proud to represent the north half in the state championships.”
South Pontotoc pitcher Sam Cruse took only his second loss in 11 decisions since opening the season with two defeats.
Cruse (9-4) was roughed up for six runs on seven hits in two-plus innings. He surrendered the home runs to Dickerson and Wheeler in the third before being replaced by Ethan Reynolds.
“We never got off the bus,” South Pontotoc coach Bryan Buckner said. “We had one little spurt there, but that was it.”
Down 10-0, the Cougars made a game of it with a four-run fourth, then tallied two more in the fifth to pull to within 10-6.
Tanner Luttrell got South Pontotoc on the board with a two-run home run to center field. After a walk to Heath Kitchens and a single by Justin Dillard, Seth Roye was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Lance Carter followed with a bloop single to left to plate Kitchens and Dillard.
In the fifth, the Cougars took advantage of three Mooreville errors to score two more runs. Jared Wilson reached when his fly ball to right field was dropped. After advancing to third on a wild pitch, Wilson scored on Luttrell’s groundout.
Cruse then reached on a dropped third strike and went to second on a throwing error by the Troopers catcher. He later scored when Roye was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
But Mooreville put the game away in the fifth, highlighted by Armstrong’s home run to right-center field.
Along with his second-inning home run, Kingsley (10-2) earned the win with 51/3 innings of six-hit ball.
“Ben showed he’s a senior,” Berryman said. “He showed a lot of leadership. He showed why we depend on him in big games.”
Buckner said he would start Carter on the mound today, while Berryman said he was undecided between Channing Nanney or D.J. Gregory.
Dale Constance/Special to the NEMS Journal