TUPELO – You could blame it on last week’s string of storms, but the deciding factor in Friday night’s season-ending loss was Tupelo High not putting together a string of hits.
Pitching on only three days rest, Tupelo starter Chris Stratton would suffer the loss as Madison Central beat Tupelo 4-2 at Golden Wave Field. With the win, the Jaguars (25-5) swept the best-of-3 series and advance to the MHSAA Class 5A state championship series against the winner of the Ocean Springs-Petal series.
Stratton (7-2), who will be playing for Mississippi State next year, was forced to pitch on three days rest after Game 2 of his team’s quarterfinals series against Clinton was rained out last Saturday and had to be made up on Monday.
On Friday night he struggled at times, allowing four runs on seven hits, while walking six and striking out 10.
“We knew we had a tough chore coming in here with Stratton pitching,” said Madison Central coach Gregg Perry. “I don’t know if he had everything that he thought he could have, but he threw a great game.
“He put his heart on the mound.”
Tupelo coach Gary Enis said the difference in Friday’s ballgame was his lineup not being able to get any key hits.
‘The bottom line’
“We couldn’t match their offensive production,” said Enis, whose team finished its season at 24-8. “That’s the bottom line. We had to match them offensively and we just couldn’t do that.
“Their pitcher had a lot to do with that.”
Tupelo struck Madison Central starter Matt Peters (8-2) for two runs in the bottom of the first, but that was all the Wave could get as Peters held Tupelo to just three hits.
The senior left-hander pitched all seven innings, striking out six while walking only two batters.
The Wave scored their runs on RBI singles by Kyle Graham and Jacob McGregor.
“You look up there at the scoreboard, that’s six straight zeroes that gave his team a chance to win,” Perry said.
Peters was backed by an RBI single by Alex Collum and an RBI bases-loaded walk to C.J. Jordan in the second inning to tie the game at 2.
Collum scored the Jaguars’ third run in the top of the fourth as Tupelo second baseman Robert Corban couldn’t come up with a shot off the bat of Brayden Jones.
Jones would put an end to Stratton’s night with a solo home run to right center to lead off the top of the seventh.
“He battled,” Enis said of Stratton’s effort on Friday. “He was not fully rested, but he gave it all he had and that’s all you can ask for out of him.”
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal