Warriors rise to challenge

By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal

PONTOTOC – The Pontotoc Warriors have been making their way smartly through the first part of their 2010 baseball schedule.
But on Tuesday, they faced their Division 1-4A opener against the always tough Itawamba AHS Indians.
The Warriors were up to the new challenge, scoring two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to edge the Indians 3-1.
“I saw two good teams tonight, and two guys pitching their hearts out,” Pontotoc coach Phil Webb said. “With a team the caliber of Itawamba, we’ll enjoy this win.”
Webb and the Warriors (10-2, 1-0) were not enjoying the top of the sixth. Pontotoc entered that half of the frame leading 1-0, but Itawamba’s Dillon Mitchell pulled his squad even with a solid solo home run over Pontotoc’s center field fence to tie the score.
But Pontotoc responded.
A single, an error, and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases for the Warriors in the bottom of the inning. That brought up Blake O’Callaghan, who pounded a ball down the third base line to bring in two runs and give Pontotoc the lead.
Itawamba (5-6, 0-1) still had ideas about claiming a win, and put two runners on base in their half of the seventh inning. Pontotoc starter Kaleb Kennedy, who had pitched a solid contest while scattering six hits to that point, gave way to O’Callaghan with the dangerous Mitchell coming to the plate.
The Pontotoc lefty induced a ground ball out to third, and the Warriors could celebrate.
“Dillon had seen Caleb three times already, and hit a home run his last time up,” Webb said. “We thought lefty on lefty was a better matchup at that point, and we got the ground ball and the out.”
Pontotoc had grabbed the early lead with its first batter, as Jon Michael Hannon led off the bottom of the first with a home run. Mitchell pitched six innings for Itawamba, only allowing five hits.
“We scratch and claw, and then can’t make plays,” IAHS coach Brian Long said. “This is the fourth game in a row that something like this has happened to us.
“We’ve got time to bounce back, but in this division, you can’t afford any slipups.”