ECRU – Mooreville baseball coach Rex Berryman doesn’t consider Ben Kingsley a pitcher.
“He’s more like an athlete,” Berryman said of his relief pitcher. “He can play any position on the field. We don’t like for him to pitch too much, but he makes that sacrifice for the team.”
Kingsley’s most important effort Tuesday night didn’t come on any pitch.
The Mooreville closer’s throw to third base on an attempted squeeze bunt picked off a North Pontotoc runner and the Troopers held on for a 5-4 victory Tuesday night at Zane Hale Field.
The win gives Mooreville a two-game sweep of the Vikings in the MHSAA Class 3A third-round playoff series. The Troopers (22-10) will face South Pontotoc in the North championship series beginning Thursday night.
The Vikings end their season at 21-7-1.
With the Troopers clinging to their one-run lead, North Pontotoc’s Cage Mills opened the bottom of the sixth with a sharp line drive headed directly for Kingsley, who barely missed being hit by the shot. Mills beat out the hit and went to second when the ball was fielded, but the throw skipped past first base.
After a sacrifice bunt by Weston Mounce moved Mills to third, Chaz Carrillo dropped a squeeze bunt that Kingsley quickly pounced on. He then threw to the third baseman, who applied the tag to retire Mills.
From there, Kingsley settled in. After hitting the leadoff batter in the seventh, he retired North Pontotoc in order to close out the series.
The Vikings “squeeze every time,” Berryman said. “We pretty much knew it was coming. We executed our defense better than they executed their offense.”
Mills “just got caught up in a rundown,” North Pontotoc coach Chad Anthony said.
Mooreville took advantage of Vikings pitcher Jeremy Ferguson’s control issues to the tune of five walks and a hit batter to score three runs without the benefit of a hit. Walks to Drew Wheeler and Gary Johnson forced in runs and Taylor Dickerson was hit by a pitch to plate another run.
The Vikings answered with four runs in the bottom of the first. The frame was highlighted by Ferguson’s two-run home run to right field that also scored Carrillo, and a two-run double by Josh Swords that split the right-center field gap and plated Myles Snyder and Colten Robbins, both of whom singled.
From there, however, the Vikings never came through with the key hit. North Pontotoc stranded base runners in every inning except the fourth and seventh.
Mooreville grabbed the lead for good in the third on a walk to Shane Reeves and a two-run home run by Chad Armstrong.
Praise for Ferguson
Despite Ferguson taking the loss, Anthony praised his pitcher’s efforts. Ferguson walked 10 batters, but also struck out eight. He threw 166 pitches on the night.
“Fergie was probably better in the sixth and seventh innings than he was in the first,” Anthony said.
Berryman said he expected a dogfight from South Pontotoc, which swept two games from the Troopers in the regular season.
“It’ll be a tough series,” he said, “but we’re going to go after them.”
Dale Constance/Pontotoc Progress