By Brandon Speck
BELDEN – Even saints need humbling now and then. Tupelo Christian was glad to do it.
The Eagles beat reigning Class 1A champion Greenville St. Joseph 8-3 Friday to complete a sweep in the first round of the MHSAA Class 1A baseball playoffs.
A night after J.G. Lipscomb struck out 13 and allowed only one hit – and no balls out of the infield – in a dominating Game 1 road win, sophomore Austin Laney came on in relief in the third inning Friday and allowed only three hits. St. Joe had cut a 4-0 TCPS lead to 4-2.
“He a good strike-thrower,” TCPS coach Will Lowrey said. “He had a little trouble with his off-speed pitches, but they were in the zone. He gutted it out and he’s been there for us all year.”
TCPS will face Ingomar in a second-round series.
The Irish had three infield singles against starter Israel Foster and scored on a botched pickoff attempt and a sac fly.
Laney (4-3) left the bases loaded after Foster did so in the second.
“We just couldn’t adjust at the plate,” Irish coach Chris Williams said. “I think if we get a couple runs there, it changes the outcome.”
The Eagles (14-10) scored four runs in the first inning. Laney scored on a wild pitch, AJ Bratton drove in a pair and Devin Orr’s RBI single made it 4-0.
It’s become a familiar rivalry. The two met in a heated North series last season. But St. Joe (11-11) lost seven starters off the title team.
TCPS was in the same boat, at least five and six freshmen and sophomores in every lineup.
Laney agrees with what Lowrey has said all season.
“I think we’ve been a lot more coachable,” Laney said, “been able to understand what he’s been trying to tell us.”
TCPS padded a one-run lead in the fourth by the bat of Matt Cates. John Mark Jolly, a freshman, walked to load the bases. Cates cleared the bags with a double. Andrew Lipscomb followed with an RBI double.
Laney staved off the middle of the Irish order, which went 0-for-8 with a pair of strikeouts.