PETAL – Pontotoc’s starting pitchers – Trace Lee and Hayden Cummings – came through on Sunday.
The two combined for 17 innings – Lee eight, Cummings nine – and pitched the Red Sox to back-to-back victories against Hattiesburg, 4-3, and Booneville, 10-1, in the elimination round of the American Legion State Tournament.
“Hayden did an awesome job,” Pontotoc assistant coach Leo Payne said. “He went deeper than we asked him to. That’s exactly what we needed. Trace is a bulldog out there. He throws strikes and dares you to hit it.”
Today, the Red Sox (23-5) have to win two more – against the Tupelo 49ers (18-9) – in the championship round.
The first game is scheduled for 11 a.m. The second game, if necessary, would follow. Pontotoc defeated Tupelo 3-1 in their only meeting this summer.
Tupelo, the tournament’s lone unbeaten team, had Sunday off. The 49ers defeated Booneville 8-3 in a rain-delayed game on Saturday.
The efforts by Lee and Cummings saved Pontotoc’s arms for today’s attempt to win a state title.
“We’re sitting as good as we could be sitting,” Payne said.
Austin Burdine, Stephen Sexton, Caleb Gowan, Peyton Callahan and Colton Ferguson all had two hits apiece for the Red Sox against Booneville.
Cummings, a Northeast signee who didn’t pitch at Pontotoc High, gave up three hits and struck out three.
Lee, who plays for Columbus High, scattered eight hits and recorded three strikeouts in the win against Hattiesburg.
The Red Sox took an early 4-0 lead with two runs each in the third and fourth innings in the opener.
In the third, Scott Pala scored from third when Stephen Sexton was hit by a pitch with bases loaded. Gowan had an RBI sacrifice fly.
In the fourth, Pala had an RBI single and later scored on an error by the Hattiesburg shortstop.
The host team threatened in the ninth, scoring two runs with two out. Pontotoc reliever Drew Smith got Hattiesburg’s hot-hitting Mathew Trigg to ground out, 4-3. Trigg was 3-for-3 coming to the plate.