n They’ll visit Batesville in search of a third consecutive win against South Panola.
By Paul Jones
Special to the Journal
COLUMBUS – With a crowded picture atop of Division 2-5A, Tupelo coach Gary Enis needed his squad to focus on the task at hand.
The Golden Wave responded with a five-inning, 15-0 victory over Columbus on Tuesday.
Behind a four-hit shutout from senior righthander Chris Stratton and a 14-hit attack, Tupelo regained the top spot in the division thanks to Stark-ville’s loss at South Panola earlier in the day.
“That was our main goal, just focusing on this game here,” said Enis. “We were really focused tonight and I am real proud of the way our guys came out and played baseball.”
Tupelo moved to 19-5 overall and 6-2 in the division. Columbus fell to 8-13 and 0-7.
The Golden Wave can clinch the region’s top seed with a win on Thursday night at South Panola. A Golden Wave loss would create a three-way tie between Tupelo, South Panola and Starkville with the top seed determined by a tiebreaker.
“I just can’t say enough about the way our guys responded,” added Enis. “We knew this was a big game tonight before going to Batesville on Thursday.”
Tupelo took advantage of erratic Columbus pitching to grab a quick, comfortable lead.
Columbus starting pitcher Nick Durrah walked the first five batters he faced and forced in two runs.
Tupelo designated hitter Kirk Roberts added a two-run single in the frame and Collin Dexter capped off the seven-run inning with a two-run double.
It was more than enough support for Stratton (5-1), who limited the Falcons to just four singles. In his five innings of work, he struck out 10 and did not issue a walk.
“I was trying to keep hitters off-balanced and work in and out with my fastball,” said Stratton. “I just wanted to limit their chances and allow our offense to get it going. …
“It always helps to get that early lead.”
Kyle Graham and John Gatlin each had two hits and three RBIs to pace Tupelo at the plate. Dexter drove in two runs.
Tupelo first baseman Lex Rutledge blasted his third home run of the season in the fifth inning and also scored four runs.
“Finally, for the first time in a while we got the bats going tonight,” said Gatlin. “We played a lot of games last weekbut got a couple of days off. The rest did us good and we just came out and hit well. We face a good pitcher Thursday (David Renfroe) so we hope to keep the momentum going.”
Tupelo has defeated South Panola twice this season and will send Rutledge to the mound on Thursday.
n Linescore, Page 2B