CLINTON – Tupelo pitcher Lex Rutledge had allowed two Clinton runs on a bases-loaded walk and a wild pitch.
He probably felt a little better about the 196-mile trip to Clinton after his solo home run to lead off the top off the seventh inning lifted Tupelo to a 3-2 win in the second round of the MHSAA Class 5A baseball playoffs.
“He was just due,” said Tupelo coach Gary Enis. “He was due at the right time. He got a good pitch to hit and put the barrel of the bat on the ball. It was a big clutch hit for us.”
The Arrows (21-8) took their first lead, 2-1, on a wild pitch in the fourth. Grae Orman opened the inning with a double and scored from third base when Rutledge said his change-up got caught up in his hand.
The Golden Wave (23-6) tied the game at 2-all in the fifth on a Kyle Graham RBI groundout that scored Collin Dexter, who singled to lead off the inning.
Rutledge said he likes hitting submarine pitchers and when Clinton brought in Grady Turmon (2-2) with two outs in the sixth, he liked what he saw.
“When the guy came in to close, I was like, ‘I’m going to hit this guy. I’m going to get a home run,’” Rutledge said. “Coach Enis said. ‘All we needed was one run, one hit Lex.’ I said, ‘Yes sir.’”
Rutledge, a Samford signee, said he got tired after two innings in the 85-degree heat. He was lifted with two outs in the fifth. Sophomore Cody Shrewsbury (3-0) went the rest of the way for the win, striking out four without allowing a hit.
“He’s been in that situation before for us this year and it probably won’t be the last,” Enis said of Shrewsbury. “We’re real proud of the way he got in there and battled.”
Tupelo took a 1-0 lead in the third inning. With two outs, Chris Stratton’s double scored John Gatlin. Clinton tied it at 1-all when Rutledge walked Adam Thigpen with the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning.
Game 2 in the best-of-three series is scheduled for 6 tonight in Tupelo. The Golden Wave will throw Mississippi State signee Stratton (6-1) against Nathan Harrell (6-0).
“We’ve got to come out tomorrow and fight and claw and battle and try to get it back here on Monday,” said Clinton coach Eddie Lofton.
Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal