By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
PONTOTOC – A Tupelo 49ers hat laid on the ground by itself early Sunday evening, outside the first-base side entrance to the Pontotoc High baseball field.
The 49ers, who occupied the first-base dugout on Sunday, had just been eliminated from the 2010 American Legion Baseball State Tournament.
While it was certainly hard to cope with another one-run loss to the Hub City Bombers in a state-tournament elimination game, it was even more difficult for the 49ers players and coaches to have taken the field in the first place.
The night before, 49ers reliever Tyler Awtrey – a player for Mooreville during the high school season – was struck in the head by a wicked line drive off the bat of Pontotoc Red Sox player Jeremy Ferguson.
Awtrey wandered off the mound before collapsing. He was taken to the North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo by helicopter.
The game was then suspended to Sunday afternoon, and Pontotoc ended up winning in a mercy-rule shortened contest, 12-1.
Late Saturday night and in the wee hours of Sunday morning, Awtrey’s teammates and coaches gathered at the Tupelo hospital to support their injured teammate who was in the intensive care unit.
“I think everybody showed up to check on him,” said 49ers coach Kirk Presley. “It’s been a tough 24 hours.”
After finishing the suspended game, the 49ers had to turn around in the afternoon and play the defending state champion Bombers. The 49ers defeated the Bombers 13-7 in an opening-round game Friday night, but had a much more difficult time on Sunday.
The Hattiesburg-based team won 11-10 on a walk-off homer by Tucker Morgan in the bottom of the ninth.
“I thought our effort today was still pretty good considering what these guys had been through,” said Presley, who left the hospital just before 2:30 Sunday morning. “It’s understandable if there were some instances where the focus wasn’t where you want it to be. But I think everybody understands that.”
Presley said Awtrey – who suffered bleeding and swelling in his head but wasn’t bleeding within his brain – was doing a lot better by late Sunday morning.
“You can’t ask guys to forget what they saw last night; just hopefully to be able to focus enough on baseball to make it through the day,” Presley said.
The Tupelo coach said he and several of the players would be going to the hospital to check on Awtrey later Sunday evening.
“He is awake,” added the coach and former standout pitcher, “and from the reports I’m hearing is that he is awake and remembers a lot. He remembers that he got hit by a baseball and knows the people around him.
“So, it’s a good day, and a lot of prayers were answered, for sure.”
Contributing: Adam Gore
Weather delays tourney finish
– The state American Legion tournament was supposed to end Sunday in Pontotoc, but bad weather has complicated the schedule.
The Pontotoc vs. Corinth game is set for today at 10 a.m. if the field at Pontotoc is playable. Check NEMS360.com today for updates.