By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
ELLISTOWN – A nerve in Russ Johnson’s pitching arm has irritated him all season. The Hatley senior and Itawamba CC signee did all the irritating Friday night, in a 3-0 win at East Union to open a best-of-three MHSAA Class 2A baseball quarterfinal series.
Johnson (5-2) struck out six in a complete game and had two of the Tigers’ six hits. He walked only one, a hit batsman in the seventh.
“It was the Russ Johnson show,” East Union coach Chris Basil said. “They didn’t make any errors behind him. He did a tremendous job. He beat us, bottom line.”
The series is scheduled to resume today in Hatley at 1 p.m.
Two of three walks for Urchins starter Austin Sanders (5-3) led to runs.
Hatley (21-8) took a 2-0 lead in the first on a pair of two-out singles from Garrett Gray and Josh Carlisle.
Hatley had a chance to open it up in the fourth, but came away with only one run despite loading the bases with one out. Johnson’s RBI groundout made it 3-0.
“Every run against East Union is big, any way you can get it,” Hatley coach John Harris said.
East Union (17-13) left Tray Davis’ leadoff single at third base in the fifth. Tigers shortstop Jonathan Waycaster prevented a second baserunner with one out in the Urchins’ seventh, firing a shot to first to get Davis on a deep grounder. The play got even bigger as rain started a heavy fall and Johnson hit Sanders to put runners at first and third with two down. But Johnson struck out pinch hitter DJ Armstrong to end the game.
“Russ looked like the Russ I know and did a great job,” Harris said. “Defensively I thought we played one of our better games all year.
“They still pushed us, made us make some plays and we happened to make those plays tonight. We know we’re going to get their best tomorrow.”