By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – A year ago, the St. Joseph Irish were in the current shoes of the Tupelo Christian Prep Eagles.
In 2011, St. Joe lost to Falkner at this very point in the playoffs, just a series away from the state championship matchup.
Now in 2012 and the semifinals of the Class 1A State Tournament, the Irish used a last-inning home run Friday to take a 7-4 victory over the Eagles, putting St. Joe in the 1A championship series.
“I just told the guys to channel this emotion,” said TCPS coach Will Lowery, who has only one senior on this year’s squad. “We pushed these guys really hard this season, and I hope they use this during the off-season.”
The win gave the Irish (20-1) a 2-0 series sweep, while this was as far as the Eagles had ever been in the post-season. But the Eagles (18-12) had thoughts of extending its season after the third inning.
There, TCPS junior Drew Carter took a two-out, two-strike offering and blasted it over the left field fence for a three-run home run to give the home team a 4-2 lead.
Carter, the TCPS starter, made that margin stand up until the top of the fifth inning. With one out, two Irish reached base thanks to infield errors, followed by a two-run single by Arrington Smith to knot the contest.
“We had the momentum then, and it shifted,” Lowery said. “I’ve told the guys about execution.
“Whoever executes the most wins games.”
The score remained tied until the top of the seventh, where the Irish drew a leadoff walk, then Smith was intentionally walked with one out. That brought up cleanup hitter Raines Rester, who lined a pitch over the left-field fence to give the visitors a three-run lead.
“Arrington Smith had killed us for two days,” said Lowery of the intentional walk. “Raines Rester is a good player, but he hadn’t touched a curve ball for two days.
“He seized the moment, give him all the credit.”
Also the starter, Rester gave up a leadoff single to Hayden Elliot in the bottom of the inning, but a double play erased the runner, and a ground out ended the TCPS season.
St. Joe had taken a 2-0 lead in the first on a walk and a fielders choice. The Eagles had scored their first run in the second on an RBI single by Tucker Akin.