STARKVILLE – Starkville catcher Blake Dawkins decided to change bats in his final at-bat Tuesday night.
He picked the right one.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning, Dawkins hit a RBI single through a drawn-in Tupelo infield to give the Jackets a 3-2 victory over the Golden Wave.
“I went up there with a 33 (inch) bat and that was too heavy,” said Dawkins, who had struck twice before his game-winning hit. “But I had the right bat in (the seventh inning) and went with a lighter bat, a 32 (inch) bat. I just had to make sure I got the bat on the ball.”
Tupelo (6-3, 1-1 in Division 1-5A) will host Starkville (10-2, 3-0) in a rematch Friday night.
Starkville centerfielder Jayson Keel opened the seventh with a single. Keel eventually ended up at third base following a stolen base and a Tupelo throwing error, the sixth of the game for the Golden Wave.
Tupelo starter Chris Stratton (2-1) walked the next two batters to set up a force play at home, only to see Dawkins deliver the game-winning hit just past the reach of Wave second baseman Robert Corban.
Stratton allowed two runs on five hits, struck out 10 but walked six batters, including two on intentional walks.
The Jackets plated two runs in the first inning, including one via a two-out infield error.
“That is really uncharacteristic for us, especially in a big division game,” said Tupelo head coach Gary Enis. “We just have to go back to work and try to get them Friday.”
Starkville also got a solid outing from pitcher R.J. Johnson. The junior right-hander went the distance and surrendered four hits. Johnson (4-0) struck out five and walked four.
“We knew we had to have R.J. throw well tonight and he did,” said Starkville coach Danny Carlisle. “We also made some great defensive plays early on and that kinda set the tone.
“We are playing with a lot of confidence. … And this helps out alot in that area.”
Tupelo trailed 2-0 until the sixth inning when the Wave produced three of their hits.
Catcher Lex Rutledge had an RBI sacrifice fly in the frame while Corban tied the game at 2-2 with an RBI single.
Tupelo was in position to take its first lead of the night in the sixth. However, third baseman Kyle Graham flied out to right field and Corban was thrown out at third base by Starkville rightfielder Chuck Tillery.
“We put some at-bats together,” said Enis of the sixth inning. “We tied it up and we actually had a couple of opportunities early in the game that we didn’t capitalize on. Starkville just got more clutch hits than we did tonight.”
Paul Jones/Special to the Daily Journal