By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
PEARL – Despite given a second life in the postseason, the Hamilton High baseball team couldn’t catch another break in Game 1 of the MHSAA Class 2A state championship series.
The Lions, playing in the state championship series after Bruce forfeited its semifinals-series clinching win due to a pitching violation, lost Game 1 to Richton, 8-4, on Tuesday night at Trustmark Park.
Game 2 will be at 1 p.m. today at Trustmark Park.
History will be on Hamilton’s side for Game 2: The Lions defeated Richton 1-0 in the second game of the 2008 state title series behind Chase Reeves’ dominant performance on the mound.
Richton, however, went on to win its second consecutive championship.
Reeves, who is now a senior, or Austin Earnest, a junior, may get the ball for Hamilton in this afternoon’s Game 2, and their fellow pitcher, Dylan Earnest, believes the Lions are fully capable of extending the series against a Richton team that has won 30 games against just three losses this season.
“If they go out there and do their job and throw strikes, and we hit the ball and play defense, I think we can win it,” said Dylan Earnest, who suffered his first loss of the season on Tuesday.
Early in Game 1, it appeared that the Lions
(22-5) – who advanced to the state championship series when a pitcher for Bruce surpassed the allotted 17-innings thrown-in-week total – would take advantage of their new life in the postseason.
Hamilton’s Nathan Cockerham singled up the middle to score Cole Gill with the game’s first run in the top of the second. The Lions could have scored another run, but Austin Welch failed to tag up on Parker Rye’s fly out to right with one out in the inning.
Hamilton then took advantage of back-to-back errors in the top of the fourth to push across a run on a sac fly to right center by Rye.
But from the bottom of the fourth on, it was all Richton (30-3) as the Rebels outscored the Lions 8-2 the rest of the way.
“They were just hitting the ball, getting good swings on good pitches,” Dylan Earnest said.
Jacoby Jones scored Richton’s first run on a dropped, called infield-fly rule, in shallow right field, off the bat of David Walley in the bottom of the fourth.
“We weren’t thinking, I guess,” Dylan Earnest said of the miscue that led to the Lions throwing the ball all over the field on the play. “We thought it was supposed to be a force out at second, but the batter is automatically out and so there is no force play. You gotta tag him.”
The Rebels added another run that inning on an single up the middle by Dylon Stringer to tie the game at 2-2.
Richton then took the lead the very next inning when pitcher Tilur
Smith doubled to right field to score Matthew Rylee and Blaze Napier launched a two-run homer to right to make it a 5-2 ballgame.
Jones added insult to injury in the fifth inning with a steal of home – his second in consecutive games – to expand the Rebels’ lead.
In the bottom of the sixth, Rylee went yard and Jones’ RBI single up the middle finished the scoring for the Rebels.
Chase Reeves’ two-run triple to right in the top of the seventh wasn’t enough for the Lions.
Despite striking out only three Hamilton hitters, Smith didn’t allow a big inning all night.
“He wasn’t really overpowering,” Dylan Earnest said of his counterpart, who improved to 10-0 on the season, Earnest’s previous mark. “He had pretty decent stuff, but he hit his spots really well and threw strikes. He threw where he wanted to when he wanted to and that’s what a good pitcher will do to you.”