By Brandon Speck
PEARL – Tyler Mercer rescued Rico. Connar Boyer saved another championship sweep.
Boyer, a sophomore, took a bases-loaded pitch to the back Friday at Trustmark Park and walked in the game-winning run as Kossuth won a second straight Class 3A state championship with a 4-3 win to complete a sweep of Sumrall.
“I was wanting to get a hit, but I was satisfied with getting hit,” Boyer said.
Rico the Penguin, a stuffed animal good luck charm Mercer won from a Subway claw machine for 75 cents a year ago, watched from the dugout as Kevin Ginn scored and teammates nearly beat Boyer to first.
In its third straight series trip, Kossuth (23-11) swept powerhouse Sumrall (25-9) a second time, starting its own dynasty by putting a pair of scars on another.
“It’s just a good group of boys,” Kossuth first-year coach Trave Hopkins said. “It’s just a great environment in Kossuth.”
The Bobcats had won their first four trips here under Larry Knight. Last season was the first title for Kossuth, now 4-0 here with Rico. Is Kossuth in Sumrall’s head?
“You gotta wonder. Sometimes when you get out there and you don’t play as well as you’ve seen yourself play, of course you can attribute a lot of that to the fact that they do some things well,” Knight said.
Down 3-2 in the seventh, Mercer and fellow senior Matthew Woodruff were hit by side-armer Drake Pace (2-4). Then with first baseman Nick Clark playing in, senior Zack Walker dribbled a single with no one covering first. Charlie Bonee walked to tie the game. The rest is history.
Mercer said he expected a sweep.
“Of course,” Mercer said. “Once you do it one year, you can always do it the next.”
Three Sumrall pitchers hit seven batters. The Bobcats took a 2-0 lead in the first on a pair of bases-loaded walks from Kossuth starter Nikolas Wilcher. The freshman was pulled for Garrison Lathrop with one out. A double play ended the inning with the bases loaded. Lathrop (3-0) went 62⁄3 and gave up one run on six hits.
Kossuth, which left 13 on base, tied it on Boyer’s RBI single and a double steal that scored Jacob Wilcher. Sumrall took a 3-2 lead on Logan McGrew’s RBI bloop.