SPRINGVILLE – The South Pontotoc Cougars started fast and then hung on.
They built a nine-run lead after two innings and went on to beat the Mooreville Troopers 14-11 in an MHSAA Class 3A North championship slugfest Thursday at Cougar Field.
South Pontotoc (21-12), which led 11-2 at one point, has won nine of its past 10 games and will look for the series sweep tonight at Mooreville. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.
A third game, if necessary, is slated for Saturday at 1 p.m. at South Pontotoc.
“We won. I’m happy, but it was ugly,” Buckner said. “I knew it was going to be tough. It’s by no means over.”
South Pontotoc got a pair of three-run home runs from David Bowen and Jermaine Bean to erase a 2-0 Mooreville lead.
Mooreville starting pitcher Ben Kingsley (9-2) took the loss after facing just four batters in the first inning and failing to retire anyone. In all, the Troopers used four pitchers, three of them in the opening frame.
The Cougars added five more runs in the second inning, highlighted by Lance Carter’s two-run single and a bases-loaded walk to Bean.
The Troopers (24-11) stranded 12 baserunners, loading the bases in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Mooreville outhit the Cougars 13-10.
“You take five more singles and that’s eight more runs in the right situations,” Mooreville manager Rex Berryman said. “We outhit them, but they got the key hits with runners in scoring position. We didn’t.”
Despite falling behind early, the Troopers rallied on a one-out, three-run home run by Gary Johnson in the third and a solo shot from Ben Kingsley in the fourth that narrowed South Pontotoc’s lead to 13-6.
Heath Kitchens earned the win despite surrendering six runs on eight hits and seven walks in 41/3 innings.
Channing Nanney added a solo home run to lead off the seventh for Mooreville, which plated three runs in all in the seventh. But South Pontotoc closer Sam Cruse pitched around a pair of infield singles to set down the Troopers.
Dale Constance/Pontotoc Progress