Oak Grove and Gulfport combined for 23 runs on 27 hits in game one of their Class 6A third round playoff matchup Thursday night. The crowd on hand at Harry Breland Field saw three home runs hit, including two grand slams, and extra innings all tied up at 10 runs apiece.
The Admirals landed the final punch in the eighth inning though, scoring three runs on their way to taking game one from the Warriors, 13-10. As a result, Oak Grove (17-10) now faces a do-or-die game two Friday night at Gulfport (24-4).
“It’s going to be tough for us to bounce back after this one,” said Warrior head coach Chris McCardle. “But at least our young guys understand what it takes to win the game. I can’t remember a South State or third round game since I’ve been here that had 27 hits.”
Oak Grove jumped out to the early lead in Thursday’s game. DeeJay Booth drove in John Rhys Plumlee with an RBI double, and moments later, Booth came home on a Gulfport balk. Through an inning of play, the Warriors led 2-0.
Following a six-run third inning from Gulfport, Oak Grove answered with five runs in its half of the frame, highlighted by a grand slam from Plumlee which put the Warriors back up, 7-6.
Oak Grove padded its lead to 9-6 off a two-run single from Turner Swistak in the fourth. But with one swing of the bat in the fifth, Gulfport was back ahead, 10-9, when Tulane signee Blake Johnson joined the grand slam party.
“We talked about Blake Johnson and the home runs he’s hit, and we’re throwing pitches right down the middle,” said McCardle. “It’s not supposed to be right down the middle. He made us pay for it.”
Oak Grove later tied it, 10-10, in its half of the fifth off Hayes Maples’ sixth home run of the year.
In the sixth inning, it appeared the Warriors would take an 11-10 lead, but a controversial interference call at shortstop led to a double play and ended the frame early.
“I thought we had a bad call in the bottom of the sixth,” said McCardle. “It cost us a run, and we could’ve easily won the game. But that’s just part of it.”
As previously mentioned, Gulfport’s three runs in the eighth inning proved to be the difference in game one. Game two is scheduled for 6 pm Friday night at Herb Wilson Field. It’s a must-win for the Warriors in order to force a game three, which would be played Saturday night back at Oak Grove.
“We gotta rebound,” added McCardle. “Hats off to Gulfport. They came down here and did a good job, stayed in the game and beat us. We’ll bounce back tomorrow and play hard. We’ll be ready to go.”