TUPELO – Tuesday night’s Tupelo-South Panola high school baseball game certainly lived up to its billing.
First, because of Division 2-5A implications, and second, because of a great pitching matchup between South Panola’s Ethan Bright and Tupelo’s Chris Stratton.
Two of the best pitchers in North Mississippi, who both have signed with Mississippi State, were toeing the rubber, making Tuesday’s matchup a must see despite the chilly conditions.
In the end, it was Stratton outdueling Bright in the Golden Wave’s 1-0 victory.
The win improved the Wave to 5-1 in the division and 15-3 overall, while the loss eliminated the Tigers (11-7, 3-3) from winning the division.
“Stratton is as good as advertised,” said South Panola head coach Patrick Robey. “You give up one run, you’re supposed to win. That’s the frustrating thing about it.
“It was a playoff-type atmosphere and we’re going to be in some more of these. Obviously we can’t win the division championship now, but you don’t have to win the division championship to win a state championship.”
Tupelo scored the only run of the game in the bottom of the sixth as Gatlin doubled to lead off and pinch-runner Benton Loftin scored following two wild pitches by Bright.
The Wave proceeded to load the bases before David Renfroe shut the door by striking out Perrin Crews and getting Kyle Graham to ground to second to end the sixth. Renfroe hit 91 miles per hour that inning, as the several pro scouts, including a New York Yankees’ scout, brought out their radar guns one more time.
But in the seventh it was Stratton’s turn to close the door – perhaps slamming it – on the Tigers. The right-hander, who was clocked at 88 MPH in the seventh, struck out the side to pick up his fourth win.
Stratton’s only loss of the season was to the Starkville Yellowjackets, who Tupelo plays next on Thursday in Starkville.
“I just wanted to get it over with,” Stratton said. “They had Renfroe coming up. He had already gotten a hit off of me.
“So, I was just trying to sit them down and make sure he didn’t come back up.”
Stratton struck out 11, walked four (one intentionally) and allowed two hits in going the distance.
“One thing I was a little disappointed with in our hitters was that we let him get in a groove, instead of maybe taking a step out, taking a breath and breaking up his rhythm a little bit,” Robey said. “I don’t think we did a good job of that tonight.”
Bright pitched 51⁄3 innings, striking out three, walking four and giving up three hits in falling to 4-2 on the season.
John Wilbert/Daily Journal