Hattiesburg takes first game in South State Championship series
Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 13, 2017
HATTIESBURG —Pearl River Central experienced the negative aspect of the unpredictable nature of sports when the team gave up a commanding 8-1 lead to Hattiesburg going into the bottom of the seventh inning to lose 9-8 in game one of the South State Championship Thursday.
All was going well for the Blue Devils as Hayden Dunhurst and Cade Lee led early with repetitive base hits and strong defensive plays while teammate Rigell Robinson controlled the mound.
But once the bottom of the seventh inning came around, all of that went out the window.
PRC Head Coach Neil Walther had one word to describe Thursday’s final inning, “implosion.”
“We have been saying all year long that you don’t have to be better than the other team, you got to be tougher and tonight Hattiesburg was tougher. That was the first time I have had to say that to this team all season,” Walther said.
Hattiesburg’s Dexter Jordan attempted to get the Tigers to a quick start, singling for an RBI in the first inning. But PRC countered those efforts, responding with three runs in the next three innings to take the lead.
Before the Devils’ fifth inning rally, Lee made a beautiful scoop and throw to first base to end what could have been a scoring opportunity for the Tigers with runners on second and third base.
Then, in the fifth, Josh Kennedy led off the Blue Devils with an RBI single to bring Dunhurst home, who had to dance around Tigers’ catcher Noah Thornton and stretch his arm to tag home plate for the Devils’ fourth run of the game, taking a 4-1 lead.
A wild pitch from the Tigers’ mound resulted in the next PRC run as Eli Lee quickly jolted home from third. One pitch later, Zach Roussell singled for an RBI to give PRC a 6-1 advantage. Two more runs from a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly from Tristan Schlottmann gave PRC a comfortable 8-1 lead heading into the final inning.
The bottom of the seventh inning came with a PRC pitching change, Austin Dean for Rigell Robinson, who pitched six innings with eight strikeouts, three walks and allowed four runs that came early in the seventh.
After Tigers Destin Holliman, Thornton and Jordan singled for RBIs, a controversial call at home plate infuriated Hattiesburg Head Coach Joe Hartfield, kicking dirt on the officials as well as throwing a full bucket of balls in the official’s direction.
After he was thrown out of the game, momentum by the Tigers increased to overcome Hattiesburg’s deficit of four runs.
Then the “implosion” began. With bases loaded, Dean walked three batters to allow Hattiesburg to get within one run to tie the game.
And after striking out one batter to allow the third PRC pitcher, Blake Craft, to seal the deal with one more out, Tigers’ Holliman hit a ball in Cade Lee’s direction, and what was a routine scoop and throw for the senior ended catastrophically, resulting in a missed throw to first base to get the final out and victory, allowing two Hattiesburg base runners to make it home and take a game one win.
“We just need to regroup and come out tomorrow with the toughness we’ve shown all season long,” Walther said.
Lee led the Blue Devils at the plate going three for four with three singles for a solo RBI.
Lee also had a good night with two hits and an RBI. Dunhurst doubled his first time at bat, hitting a ball over the Tiger outfielders.
Game two of the 5A South State Championship was cancelled Friday due to weather conditions and will be played Saturday at 7 p.m.