By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
MOOREVILLE – For the Mooreville Troopers and first year head coach Jamie Russell, their post-season formula seems pretty simple – pitching, defense and hitting.
Simple, but effective.
The Troopers kept it simple Saturday, beating Division 2-3A rival the Water Valley Blue Devils 13-2 in five innings to take their Class 3A State Tournament quarterfinal series 2-0.
“We knew coming into this series, Water Valley could hit the ball, but we gave the ball in each game to two senior pitchers,” Russell said. “They pitched well, we played defense well, and we hit the baseball.”
The Troopers series sweep sets up an interesting and unlikely semifinal matchup in the north half of the 3A bracket that begins Thursday – Mooreville and the Ripley Tigers.
Unlikely because both Mooreville and Ripley entered the post-season as No. 3 seeds from their respective divisions.
Interesting because Russell was Ripley’s head coach the three previous seasons.
“Ripley obviously has to be playing well, or they wouldn’t be playing at this point,” Russell said. “It’s just going to be two teams fighting for a north half championship, and we can’t approach it any differently.”
Mooreville approached Game 2 against Water Valley in a workman-like fashion, chipping away on the scoreboard early.
In the bottom of the first inning, Austin Knox had a two-run double to give the Troopers the early advantage. Then in the second frame, Corey Rushing and Channing Nanney each had a single, later scoring to give Mooreville a 4-1 lead.
The Troopers then broke the contest open in the fourth, scoring nine runs, eight of those before Water Valley could even get an out recorded. Mooreville loaded the bases right away in the frame, then Austin Lauderdale, Rushing, and Gary Johnson each and RBI hits during the inning.
That was easily enough for Nanney, who scattered two hits in his five inning complete game effort.
Water Valley’s first hit was a solo home run by Taylor King in the second. And in the fifth, Austin Hodge doubled and later scored.
“It was very big to get this series finished here because we didn’t want to go back to their place Monday,” said Russell, who saw Water Valley finish ahead of the Troopers in 2-3A as the No. 2 seed. “Because our previous series had been pushed back to Wednesday, I had kind of questioned about throwing him tonight.
“But he’s a senior, and he stepped up for us.”