By Mark Beason/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
MADISON – The third time was the charm.
For the third consecutive year Tupelo has traveled to Madison Central in the MHSAA Class 6A championship series and for the first time the Golden Wave went home a winner.
Tupelo (29-3) beat Madison Central (30-2) 8-5 in nine innings Thursday night to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series. Game 2 is at 6 p.m tonight at Golden Wave Field.
“Any win in the playoffs is a big win, but we’ve lost here the past two years and to finally get it done is a boost for us,” Tupelo coach Gary Enis said. “But Madison Central has a great team and we’re going to have to play well and keep making plays.”
Tupelo broke a 4-4 tie in the top of the seventh, scoring on a Madison Central error. The Golden Wave had a chance to close out the Jaguars, but a solo home run by Zach Irwin with one out in bottom of the seventh sent the game into extra innings.
After a scoreless eighth, Tupelo once again took advantage of Madison Central miscues. A pair of Jaguars throwing errors and a single by Connor Carothers led to three Golden Wave runs and an 8-5 lead.
Left-hander Cody Shrewsbury shut the door in the bottom of the ninth to earn the save. Shrewsbury had a good night at the plate too, going 2-for-4.
“We didn’t deserve to win it,” Madison Central coach Gregg Perry said. “We made too many mistakes and Tupelo played a clean game.”
Tupelo starter Ben Hudspeth was staked to an early lead as the Golden Wave scored three runs in the second off Madison Central ace Josh Laxer. Carothes led of the second with a solo home run over the center field wall putting the Wave up 1-0. Luke Davis had an RBI single and William Goss drove in a pair of runs to push the lead to 3-0.
Hudspeth had a solid night on the mound going 51⁄3 innings and giving up four runs. Madison Central scored two in the fourth, including a solo home run by Curt Chism. Tupelo answered right back with a run in the fifth when Goss lined a triple into the left-center gap and scored on a Jaguar throwing error.
Madison Central got to Hudspeth again in the sixth scoring twice to tie the game. The big hit in the inning was a two-out single by Stanford Parks off Golden Wave reliever Ben Aldridge. Aldridge entered in relief of Hudspeth with bases loaded and just one out.
“All of our pitchers battled out there and made them earn it,” Enis said. “Hudspeth gave us all he had, he just ran out of gas.”