By Blake Long/NEMS Daily Journal
PEARL – Hunter Swindle makes the transition from catcher to pitcher often, but never before in the type of pressure situation he faced Thursday afternoon.
The freshman recorded the final two outs on the mound after catching six-plus innings in Kossuth’s 6-5 victory over Sumrall in Game 1 of the MHSAA Class 3A baseball championship series.
The teams meet again at 4:30 p.m. today at Trustmark Park. An Aggies win would clinch the first state title in program history.
“It was quite nerve racking, but I had to pull through and get it done,” said Swindle. “I didn’t have much time to warm up, but I didn’t need much.”
Will Simon’s single up the middle off Kossuth starter Tyler Mercer scored Sumrall’s third run of the seventh inning and cut their deficit to only one. The rally included a dropped pop to center that scored the first run of the inning.
Swindle relieved Mercer and walked his first batter. He then settled in and got Chandler Massengale to ground into a fielder’s choice and Stephen Newell to pop up with the tying run at third base for the final out.
Mercer (11-3) struck out six and scattered nine hits to earn the win. He caught Swindle’s third save after exiting as the starting pitcher.
Kossuth took its first lead in the third. Blake Cain doubled and scored on an infield hit by Josh Whitaker.
Jacob Wilcher then stole home on a pickoff attempt, just getting his hand around the tag for a 2-1 advantage.
Newell’s sixth-inning double tied the game before the Aggies (20-13) pulled ahead in the bottom half with 4 runs.
Kossuth batted around, but the middle and bottom of its order did the majority of the damage with RBIs from Connar Boyer and Chase Peterson.
Before the sixth, the four-through-nine hole hitters for the Aggies were a combined 1 for 12.
“We’ve battled all year long and we have a plan going into every game we play,” said Kossuth coach Daniel Threadgill. “They’re scrappy, never quit, they hustle and that’s all I can ask.”
Massengale (7-4) allowed only two earned runs and took the loss. Sumrall (23-12) made an uncharacteristic four errors.