State Legion tourney begins

Baseball StockBy GENE PHELPS
Daily Journal

PETAL – Three factors will work against a pitching staff in this weekend’s American Legion State Baseball Tournament.

Heat: A high heat index and high humidity during the morning and afternoon games will zap a pitcher’s stamina.

“It’s not so much the nine-inning game as it is the heat. A pitcher may give out before his arm gives out,” Pontotoc Red Sox coach Nickey Browning said.

Nine-inning games: All postseason games in Legion play are nine innings. The participants have played mostly seven inning games this summer.

“Those few extra innings don’t seem like much, but they can be,” Tupelo 49ers coach Kirk Presley said.

Loser’s bracket: Lose your opener and you could play as many as five games to win the tournament.

“You don’t want to get in the loser’s bracket,” Browning said.

“It’s important to win those first two games and not use up too much pitching,” Presley added.

Pontotoc (21-4) opens the tournament at 3 p.m. today at Petal High School field when it plays Northeast Mississippi foe Booneville. Tupelo (16-9) follows at 6 p.m. with a game against host Hattiesburg. The Hub City team enters the three-day tournament as the defending champion.

Itawamba was scheduled to play, but dropped out Wednesday.

Browning’s Red Sox have relied on the pitching of Austin Burdine, Joseph Caver, Trace Lee, Ryan Watts and Chance Witt this summer.

“We’ve had good pitching and good hitting,” Browning said. “We’ve got to have a little luck.”

Presley feels good about the pitching staff he’s got headed into the postseason. Drew Carter, Destin Hahn, Collin McCrory, McKamy Smith, Tanner Poole and Hudson Roy have all been solid performers.

“All of those guys have thrown well,” he said. “I feel comfortable running any of those guys out there.

“I want them to be efficient with their pitch count and get us into the sixth or seventh inning.”

The situation Presley and Browning want to avoid is having to go with a reliever early.

“You put a plan together before the tournament,” Presley said. “A lot of it has to do with how they’ve pitched this summer. You want guys who can come in and throw strikes in relief.”

gene.phelps@journalinc.com