By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
FLOWOOD – For Northwest Rankin’s John Alan Wall, Saturday’s playoff game against Tupelo was one for the scrapbook.
For the visiting Golden Wave, it was no keepsake.
Wall belted a grand slam homerun and a game-winning two-run double in the Cougars’ 11-1 five-inning victory in Game 2 of their MHSAA Class 6A best-of-three series.
The win gave Northwest Rankin (27-5) a sweep of the first-round series. Tupelo (19-11), an 8-3 loser in Game 1, saw its season end.
Wall’s homer in the second inning off Tupelo starter Michael Hensley came one pitch after the Golden Wave loaded the bases with an intentional walk to slugger Reid Humphreys, who has belted 11 homers this season.
“We were playing the odds and it backfired on us,” Tupelo coach Gary Enis said. “That was a big blow. It deflated everybody.”
Northwest Rankin scored seven runs in the inning to build a 9-0 lead.
Wall took Hensley’s first pitch deep over the left field fence for his fifth homer of the season.
“It was inside,” Wall said of the pitch. “I don’t know how I got my hands through it, but I did.”
The Cougars clinched the series on the strength of Wall’s two-run double to left in the bottom of the fifth inning. They will play Southaven in the state quarterfinals.
Hensley finished the season 6-2 as a starter. He was relieved in the third by Ben Matthews, who silenced the Cougars’ hot bats. He recorded four strikeouts and gave up one hit, the double to Wall in the fifth.
Tupelo scored its lone run in the fifth inning on back-to-back singles by Michael Ray and J.P. Stanzell.
Left-hander Hunter Smith (7-0) got the win.