MOOREVILLE – It seemed just like a regular season matchup Friday between the North Pontotoc Vikings and the Mooreville Troopers – tense.
But this meeting was Game 1 in the third round of the Class 3A playoffs. Tense was just the polite way to put how intense this contest was.
D.J. Gregory finally decided the outcome of this meeting with the game-winning hit in the bottom of the seventh for a 6-5 win for Mooreville, which now holds a 1-0 in this best-of-three series.
“This was a typical Mooreville-North Pontotoc game, tight right down to the end,” said veteran Mooreville coach Rex Berryman, whose Troopers split the regular season series with the Vikings 1-1. “This series is a long way from being over.”
The pressure picks up again today with Game 2, scheduled for 2 p.m., with North Pontotoc hosting in Ecru.
And there was more than enough pressure to go around in the seventh inning of Game 1.
North Pontotoc (21-6-1) entered the frame trailing 5-4 against Mooreville senior ace Ben Kingsley. A hit batter gave the Vikings a chance, and Myles Snyder knocked Chris Carrillo in to tie the contest with a double down the left field line at 5-5.
The Troopers (21-10) responded in the bottom half of the inning.
Vikings reliever Kyle Robbins walked the bases full with no outs. Snyder, the North Pontotoc starter, was called back to the mound to face Gregory, hitless to that point.
Against a drawn-in infield, Gregory ripped the game-winning hit down the right field line.
‘Had our chances’
“We had our chances,” North Pontotoc coach Chad Anthony said. “I’m proud of Kyle Robbins, he came in and gave us a chance to win.
“We’re just staying positive now. We’ve won 21 games already, we’ve just got to win two more.”
Mooreville had control of the contest in the middle innings, almost to the point of taking the drama out of the matchup. Kingsley was shaky early, surrendering a solo run in the second inning on a pair of walks and error.
Then the Troopers gave their ace some support in the third inning. Back-to-back doubles by Chad Armstrong and Gary Johnson snowballed into RBI hits by Tyler Moore and Channing Nanney that gave Mooreville a 4-1 lead.
Mooreville scored another run in the fourth, but then had the bases loaded after that with no outs, and failed to plate any more. North Pontotoc crawled back into the contest with a three-run sixth inning on an RBI hit by Colten Robbins, and a two-run error.
“Ben fought his wildness all night, but we should have been able to finish the game comfortably,” said Berryman of his senior hurler. “We would not have come back with him in the eighth.”
Berryman will most likely throw either Gregory (6-1) or Nanney (6-1) in Game 2, while Anthony is considering Jeremy Ferguson as his starter.
David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal