Tide swept by Hornets

Published 4:09 am Sunday, May 10, 2009

It took until the seventh and final inning for East Central to take command of Thursday’s first game in the Class 4A South State finals against Picayune.

It didn’t take the defending state champions nearly that long to seize command of game two.

The homestanding Hornets, still feeding off the momentum of a late game winning rally in the opener, jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first inning of the second game and then added five more in the third frame and cruised to an 8-1 win Friday on the East Central campus.

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The win gave the Hornets a two game sweep in the best of three series, and ECHS moves on to the state finals this week.

Picayune, which led 4-2 with one out in the seventh stanza of the first game, ends the season at 22-5 while ECHS stands 28-5. It was the first appearance in the South State finals for the Maroon Tide since 2003.

“I think that their momentum kind of rolled over from one game to the next,” Picayune head coach Cayne Stockstill said. “I also think their experience really paid off. They’re really solid hitting the ball one-through-nine, and they came out swinging the bats.”

A standing room only crowd of close to 1,000 watched as a pair of unbeaten pitchers matched up on the mound. It was East Central’s Joel Tanner, though, that proved to be the dominant hurler in this one as he moved to 12-0 keeping the Maroon Tide hitters at bay most of the game.

“Joel was in control, he pitched well,” ECHS head coach Gary Long said. That was the key, along with jumping on them early.”

Picayune ace Bryce Ladner, who was 9-0 coming into the game, wasn’t able to get of of the first inning and took his first loss of the season.

The Hornets got four hits in the first, chasing Ladner in the process. Matt Linton’s RBI-double got the Hornets rolling to a 3-0 lead they would never relinquish.

Hunter Gill replaced Ladner, and the host team treated him rudely as well as they sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five runs in the third frame and Gill’s teammates did him no favors as the Tide committed three errors in the inning as well.

Trey Porter’s two run single was the big blow in the stanza. It was Porter’s two run double on Thursday that gave ECHS the lead in the seventh inning.

The Tide never threatened against Tanner, only avoiding a shutout on Jonathan Hickman’s RBI-single in the fifth that plated Garrett Williams.

Hickman was one of the bright spots in the loss for the Tide, as the sophomore not only had the run scoring hit but replaced Gill in the third and shut down the Hornets the rest of the way.

The game was the last for eight Maroon Tide seniors; Ladner, Gill, Williams, Evan Nichelson, Jake Riser, Jared Bales, Brett Milner and Eric Cochran.

“I am so proud of the team for the year they had, they proved a lot of people wrong that didn’t think they could accomplish what they did,” Stockstill concluded. “And these seniors came so far in the past few years. They really put Picayune baseball back on the map.”

East Central will meet either New Hope or West Lauderdale in the first game of the best of three state finals seirs Friday at 1 p.m., in Pearl at Trustmark Park.