Pontotoc Red Sox ride bullpen effort to winners bracket

By Blake Long/Special to the Journal

TUPELO – Colt Smith took the mound in relief during the fourth inning of Thursday afternoon’s American Legion State Tournament opener with the mindset of pitching the remainder of the game.
He did just that, allowing only one run the remaining six-plus innings to lead Pontotoc to a 10-3 win over Corinth at Golden Wave Field.
The Red Sox (10-14) face a quick turnaround this morning when they face host Tupelo, who drew a first-round bye, at 10 a.m. Corinth will play the loser of Hub City and Itawamba in a 1 p.m. elimination game.
Smith allowed his defense to play behind him, forcing nine groundouts compared to two strikeouts. Most importantly, the New Albany product helped to save Pontotoc’s pitching staff with two guaranteed games today.
“You’ve got to make them earn every run they get and that’s virtually what Smith did when he came in,” Red Sox coach Nickey Browning said. “He walked a few batters, but he threw strikes and we made plays for him.”
Pontotoc (10-14) turned four inning-ending double plays against the Cardinals, three of them with Smith on the mound.
The latter came with one out and the bases loaded in the fifth inning. Shortstop Jay King snagged a sharp line drive off the bat of Zack Carpenter and doubled off Ethan Gill at second base to keep Corinth scoreless in the frame.
“We’ve just got to hit in crucial spots,” said Corinth coach Dale Bain. “We got runners on, we hit the ball good, but we just didn’t hit when we needed it. That’s the killer.”
The Red Sox turned the momentum from their final double play into four runs the following inning. Tyler Dowdy and Luke Stanley connected on back-to-back run scoring singles to break a 2-2 tie.
Pontotoc took advantage of five free passes over the final two innings and tacked on four more runs in those frames.
“I just told them, ‘You won the ballgame because you scored in four of the last five innings. You didn’t quit.” Browning said.
Corinth (15-11) scored two runs in the first three innings off Red Sox starter Kyle Robbins. A second inning bases loaded walk by Hayden Cummings was followed a frame later on Gill’s RBI single.
Singles by Jacob Shempert and Hayden Stegall scored two runs in the fourth inning to begin Pontotoc’s comeback on Cardinals starter Tyler Nelms, who took the loss.