SALTILLO – Saltillo pitcher Cole Morse and his coach, Johnny Bolen, disagreed on the player’s biggest contribution Friday night in the Tigers’ 4-3 Class 4A series-clinching win against Neshoba Central.
Morse selected the first-pitch, three-run homer he blasted over the center field fence in the fifth inning that put Saltillo ahead.
“It was great, maybe the best moment of my life,” the junior right-hander said. “I was looking fastball and got one right down the middle.”
Bolen said that while the homer “sealed the deal,” he thought Morse’s strikeout of Neshoba Central’s lead-off batter, shortstop Donnie Tabb, with two men on base in the sixth was the difference.
“That kid’s an athlete … a player who can hit,” Bolen noted. “That was the big play.”
Tabb had doubled off Morse in the fifth and scored a run.
Bottom line, both plays by Morse helped the Tigers advance to next week’s third-round best-of-three series where they’ll play the winner of the Pontotoc-New Hope series.
Saltillo (17-13) has now won four straight games after entering the postseason with a .500 record and as the No. 4 seed from a tough Division 1-4A.
“Our division’s one of the toughest,” Morse said. “I think a lot of people underestimated us because we were coming in No. 4.”
Bolen knew better, and made sure his team never forgot it.
“I told them that if we’re able to get in the playoffs, we’ll be in good shape,” the coach said. “Playing in a division like we do helps you in the playoffs.”
Visitors take 2-0 lead
Neshoba Central took a 2-0 lead in the first inning off Morse, scoring on a solo homer by Dustin Floyd and a single by Joel McKee.
Saltillo answered with one run in the second on Drew Chisholm’s single. The Tigers would not score again until Morse’s homer.
Tabb gave the visiting Rockets a 3-1 lead in the fifth when he scored on Caleb McKee’s base hit.
Saltillo escaped the seventh inning and clinched the win on a game-ending 6-6-3 doubleplay by Chisholm, the shortstop.
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal