Mooreville coach Jamie Russell stressed to his team about playing mistake-free baseball before the best-of-three series MHSAA Class 3A state championship series got under way on Tuesday afternoon at Smith-Wills Stadium. However, his Troopers still made mistakes early in Game 1 that proved to be too costly to overcome.
The end result was a 6-2 loss. The Troopers will look to even the series - against the same school it lost to in the 2008 state championship series - on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
Drew Wheeler (7-1) will be on the mound for the Troopers while Luke Lowery (9-0) will go for the Bobcats.
"If we make the plays and don't give them extra outs and don't make the base-running mistake right there, we're up 3-2. You got a different ballgame," Russell said of Tuesday's first four innings. "You got pressure on them and we're battling them right there."
The Bobcats, the three-time defending state champs, put the pressure on the Troopers early with a four-run first that began with Bradley Smith's solo homer to right on the third pitch of the game. Sumrall tacked on another run on Dylan Anglin's base hit to left in the top of the second.
Then, in the top of the fourth, two errors led to another Sumrall run.
Trailing 5-0 in the last half of the fourth, the Troopers finally got something going at the dish. Drew Wheeler - the fourth member of Mooreville's Fab 4 and the fourth hitter in the lineup - stroked a homer with three runners on board that just cleared the left-field wall.
The ball barely cleared enough of the first wall in left field that it caused a controversial ruling. Not knowing for sure if it was indeed a homer or a ground-rule double, Tyler Moore, who had walked after Gary Johnson reached on an error, advanced past pinch-runner Cody Cryder when rounding the bases, resulting in the inning's second out.
So, what would have been a three-run homer that would have cut Sumrall's lead to two turned into a two-run one.
"The home run was crazy," Russell said. "The umpires didn't make the call (the home-run signal) and we didn't do what we were supposed to do base running, and it was crazy."
On a bright side, Mooreville starting pitcher Channing Nanney (9-5) held Sumrall scoreless the final three innings.
The Troopers, however, couldn't get anything else going against Brandon Pennington (11-1), finishing with a total of four hits.
"He pitched well the whole game," Russell said about his senior starter who suffered through a 25-pitch first inning. "We dropped a fly ball right there and got ourselves in trouble. If we catch that fly ball, they score one or two that first inning instead of four.
"He pitched well the whole game. He pitched well enough to win, but we just gave them too many outs and didn't hit the ball great."