TUPELO – For the third straight year, Tupelo High School ended Clinton High School’s season in the MHSAA Class 5A baseball playoffs.
Behind a strong pitching performance by Chris Stratton and some timely hitting, the Golden Wave rolled to a 6-0 victory over the Arrows in Monday night’s Game 2 in a best-of-3 series.
The Wave (24-6) will play Madison Central in the state semifinals beginning Thursday.
“All of it came about because of our starting pitcher, Chris Stratton,” said Tupelo coach Gary Enis. “He gave us a great game with a shutout, and all we needed to do was get a few runs for him.
“He just got in a groove and threw his game.”
Each time Tupelo beats Clinton in the playoffs has to be a good feeling for Stratton. The senior right-hander had a no decision against Clinton his sophomore season when Phillip Chapman homered off him and the Arrows wound up winning.
“We wanted to put it away so we wouldn’t have to go back to Clinton,” Stratton said. “First time we’ve swept them in a long time. It was great to do that.
“It seems like we play them every year.”
Cohen in the house
Stratton (7-1) allowed only three hits, walked five and struck out 10 in pitching all six innings for the Wave. The senior was pitching in front of his future college coach, John Cohen of Mississippi State, and a Washington Nationals scout.
For a while, it looked like Stratton would have to be virtually lights out the entire game because the Wave hitters were facing one of the state’s top pitchers, Nathan Harrell.
The Wave struck the Hinds CC commitment for one run in the bottom of the second on Collin Dexter’s RBI single through the left side of the infield. It was the fifth inning before Tupelo scored again.
After Kirk Roberts’ RBI single in the fifth, Jacob McGregor hit a two-strike, two-out triple down the right-field line to score two runs and knock Harrell from the game.
“My previous two at-bats I left runners on base and I did not want to do that again,” said McGregor, who worked a full count before going opposite field. “I wanted to come in there and get some runs and score for Chris.”
Harrell (6-1) pitched four 2/3 innings, allowing four runs, five hits and three walks. He struck out four.
“His velocity and everything was a little bit off,” said Clinton coach Eddie Lofton. His team finished the season 21-9.
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal