Panther pitcher pushes Petal past Tupelo

JACKSON – Petal pitcher Cody Conkle was “Tubby the Terrible” against Tupelo in Wednesday’s MHSAA Class 6A state championship series opener.
Conkle, who was greeted at the plate in the first inning with a repetitive chant of “One tubby, tubby … two tubby, tubby,” from a group of young Tupelo fans, fired a four-hitter and recorded four strikeouts to lead the Panthers to a 10-2 victory before an estimated crowd of 1,000 fans at Smith-Wills Stadium.
“It fired me up,” said a portly Conkle (10-3), an offensive lineman in football, who ended the Wave’s silly song with an RBI double. “I’m used to it. It’s a lot worse when we play (rival) Oak Grove.”
The series between the Golden Wave (30-5) and Panthers (23-11) moves to Pearl’s Trustmark Park at 1 p.m. today.
Tupelo first baseman Cody Shrewsbury, who went 0-for-3, threw a nod Conkle’s way.
“He was just locating, nothing special,” Shrewsbury said. “Give him credit, he threw a four-hitter.
“We came out flat. We can come back tomorrow with (Ben Hudspeth) pitching. We’ve got to get a ‘W’ and get it to Game 3.”
Tupelo’s pitching – starter J.D. Roberts (8-2) and relievers Ben Aldridge, Jack Hill and Brayden Owen – scattered 10 hits, recorded five strikeouts and walked seven.
“Giving up 10 hits and seven walks is not a good combo for success,” Tupelo coach Gary Enis said. “We’re better offensively than that. Petal’s a club you’ve got to match offensively.”
The win was the 11th straight for Petal, the defending state champion. The Panthers, who were 8-9 at one point this season, have now won 15 of 17.
Conkle doubled off Roberts in the top of the first to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
Petal made it 3-0 in the third when junior all-star outfielder Anthony Alford slapped a two-run single into left field.
The Golden Wave made it 3-1 in the bottom of the third when William Goss plated Luke Davis, who had reached on an error, with a sacrifice fly to left.
Aldridge replaced Roberts on the mound in the fifth and gave up two runs to extend Petal’s lead to 5-1. Alford drove in one of the runs with a triple.
Aldridge exited in the sixth after giving up three consecutive walks. Petal’s leadoff batter, Jacoby Langley, gave his team a 6-1 lead with a sacrifice fly to deep right-center field off Wave reliever Jack Hill.
Caleb Walker, who led Tupelo with two hits, singled and scored on a throwing error in sixth to cut the Panthers’ lead to 6-2.
Petal finished off the win with a four-run, three-hit seventh inning.

Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal