By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – There were moments late in Friday’s contest that the Grenada Chargers appeared to be the highly-ranked baseball team on the field.
Now, the Tupelo Golden Wave will have to wait 17 hours before being able to do anything about that perception.
Unimpressed by Tupelo and the playoff atmosphere, the Chargers snapped the Wave’s 22-game winning streak with a five-run top of the sixth inning, claiming a 5-4 victory in Game 1 of their Class 6A second-round best-of-three series.
“They strung together some hits, and hitting is contagious,” Tupelo coach Gary Enis said. “Grenada did what it had to do.
“We had our chances too, and didn’t capitalize enough.”
This outcome puts Tupelo (24-2), No. 1 in the state in the Clarion Ledger rankings, in a must-win situation today. The Wave travels to Grenada for a 2 p.m. contest, hoping to claim a win and push the best-of-three series back to Tupelo on Monday.
And when push came to shove in Game 1, Grenada (15-12) pushed all the right buttons.
Trailing 2-0 entering the sixth inning, the Chargers touched Wave starter Ben Hudspeth for a walk and three straight hits, scoring a run on a Brandon Sirley hit. Tupelo did throw out a runner at the plate on Sirley’s hit, and then did it a second time on the first batter reliever Ben Aldridge faced.
Following an error that could have gotten Tupelo to the dugout still with the lead, Grenada strung together three smart-looking hits and a walk that scored four more runs. Tuner Neely had the go-ahead RBIs for Grenada, with Javoris Redditt and Paul Liberto adding run-scoring hits.
Tupelo tried to respond in the bottom of the frame as a Hudspeth double scored a run to pull the Wave within 5-3. But Grenada coach Jake Yarborough gambled by inserting potential Game 2 starter Neely.
The Chargers right-hander responded by inducing three outs to end the sixth. Then Neely allowed a two-out RBI double by Dylan Vuncannon in the seventh, but eventually got out of a bases-loaded jam without allowing any more damage.
“Playing in a division with Madison Central and Northwest Rankin prepares you for a game like this,” Yarborough said. “Neely didn’t throw too many innings tonight; he’ll be good to go tomorrow.”
In the second inning, Tupelo moved confidently to a 2-0 lead as Blake McCullough and Peyton Wade had RBI hits.
“The layoff didn’t impact us, but three errors did,” said Enis, whose team was coming off a 10-day layoff after earning a first-round bye. “It extended some of their innings, and gave some of their better batters a chance.”
Tupelo’s leading hitter and a potential Game 3 pitcher, Cody Shrewsbury, did not play for a fourth straight game.