BOONEVILLE – Competitors generally do not agree – that’s just the nature of sports.
But the general consensus after Game 1 of the second-round matchup between the South Pontotoc Cougars and the Booneville Blue Devils in the Class 3A State Tournament was that Heath Kitchens was a key factor.
The Cougars’ righthander scattered five hits over seven innings, helping his club to a 7-3 victory, and a 1-0 series advantage.
Game 2 of the contest is at South Pontotoc today at 7 p.m.
“Our pitcher did a heck of a job tonight,” said South Pontotoc coach Bryan Buckner. “And we overcame any mistakes with our hitting.”
That South Pontotoc (17-11) hitting put the early pressure on Booneville (19-5-2).
The Cougars jumped on the scoreboard in the top of the first inning with three runs that really put the pressure on the Devils. Perhaps the other star for South Pontotoc this contest was Tanner Lutrell, who ripped a two-run double as part of the first inning.
Not going quietly, Booneville responded with a pair of RBI hits in the bottom of the frame by Kyle Stephenson and T.D. Bishop to cut the margin to 3-2.
Luttrell goes deep
In the third, Luttrell stepped squarely into the spotlight with a solid solo home run to left field.
Booneville scratched out a solo run in the bottom of the inning, but South Pontotoc retained control with a 4-3 lead.
Then the contest settled into a pitching duel between Stephenson and Kitchens.
“Their pitcher had a lot to do with the outcome of the game,” Booneville coach Bo Sandlin said. “Give him a lot of credit.
“But we certainly made some crucial mistakes, and I’m looking forward to bouncing back tomorrow.”
The Cougars threatened in the fifth inning, loading the bases with no outs, but Stephenson got out of the jam with two strike outs.
Then South Pontotoc padded its margin in the seventh inning with three runs, including RBI hits by Jared Wilson and Sam Cruse.
“We hadn’t always done that in the first inning, but you put the pressure on the other team to have to fight back,” Buckner said. “We’ll take the momentum going into tomorrow.”
South Pontotoc will likely send Cruse to the mound to start in Game 2, while Booneville will likely counter with Hunter Maness.
David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal