Play at plate makes difference in Tupelo baseball win over Columbus

TUPELO – On a night when Tupelo High pitcher Lex Rutledge was sharp, the Columbus Falcons almost won.
It took Collin Dexter’s throw from left field to gun out Columbus’ Austin Stovall at home to end the game and preserve Tupelo’s 2-1 win victory at Golden Wave Field on Friday night.
“If he slides he’s safe,” said Columbus coach Jeffrey Cook. “That’s automatic. You can’t wait for another two-out hit in the last inning.”
Columbus (7-10) will have to wait, though, for its first Division 2-5A win of the season, as the Falcons dropped to 0-6 in the division.
The Golden Wave, meanwhile, improved to 4-1 in the division and 11-3 overall.
Rutledge improved to 3-0 on the year after striking out 11 and allowing only two hits. He walked four and hit a batter.
“He got his pitch count real high and we were a little worried about that in the last inning,” said Tupelo head coach Gary Enis. “But he battled and battled his way through it.”
Stefan Hairston reached on an error by Tupelo third baseman Kyle Graham with one out in the top of the seventh. Golden Wave second baseman Robert Corban then made a diving stop to his left to throw out pinch-hitter Aurby Burdine for the second out.
Hairston moved up to third and later scored on a wild pitch to make it a one-run game.
Stovall walked next and stole second to set up Dylan Anderson’s hit to left that Stovall tried to score on.
During the first two innings, three Major League Baseball scouts were on hand to watch Rutledge pitch. Two of the scouts, a Baltimore Orioles’ scout and a Florida Marlins’ scout, left to go see South Panola’s David Renfroe pitch in a game that started at 7 p.m. in Starkville. The third scout, a regional scout for Major League Baseball, stayed.
Rutledge was hitting 94 miles per hour on the radar guns at the start of the game, but was in the low 80s by game’s end. The senior left-hander said he threw over 100 pitches.
Rutledge had a no-hitter through five before Billy Autrey broke it up to lead off the sixth. Ironically, it was Autrey who broke up Chris Stratton’s bid for a no-hitter with one-out in the bottom of the seventh of Wednesday’s 5-0 Wave victory.
“Lex and Chris are probably the best 1-2 guys in the state,” Cook said. “I know that’s the best two we’ve ever seen.”
Rutledge doubled to left center off Falcons starter Tyji Hawkins (1-2) with one out in the Tupelo fourth, and Jacob McGregor followed with an infield hit to second. Rutledge was lifted for pinch-runner William Goss, while McGregor, who had fouled a pitch off his foot, was lifted for runner Drew Alford.
After Corban struck out for the second out, Perrin Crews singled to left to score Goss, and the ball got past Hairston in the outfield, allowing Alford to score Tupelo’s second run.

John Wilbert/Daily Journal

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