Photo/Zac Chamblee

Despite a late rally, the Oak Grove Warriors were not able to dig themselves out of the early hole they put themselves in during Saturday’s do-or-die Game 3 at St. Martin. After the Warriors went up 1-0 in the top of the first, St. Martin answered with eight unanswered runs in the game’s first three innings to go up 8-1. The Yellow Jackets went on to beat Oak Grove for a second consecutive night and advance in the Class 6A playoffs with a 9-7 win. 

“[We] didn’t handle the atmosphere of the game and just fell apart,” Oak Grove coach Chris McCardle said. 

“We got in a hole early and made some boneheaded plays.”

The Yellow Jackets did most of their damage behind a five-run second inning. After back-to-back singles and an Oak Grove error, St. Martin had the bases loaded with nobody out. Another error extended their lead to 3-1, and RJ Fletcher followed with a two-run single to make it 5-1. The next batter, Brennen Study, hit a ball to left field, and the Warrior outfielder lost it in the lights and another run crossed home plate. After Oak Grove starting pitcher Kris Jones recorded the second out of the inning with a strikeout, the Yellow Jackets went up 7-1 on a wild pitch. 

“[We] made too many mistakes like we did last night against a really good team, and they made us pay for it,” McCardle said. “Every time we made a mistake, they made us pay for it.”

Even with all that happened, the Warriors had a chance to win the game. Parker Harrington replaced Jones on the mound in the third inning with Yellow Jacket baserunners on first and second with nobody out. A bunt single from Leo Harris loaded the bases, again, for St. Martin, and Study then drew a walk to extend the Yellow Jacket lead to 8-1. Harrington got out of the jam relatively unscathed, though, with a fly-out and back-to-back strikeouts. The junior right-hander allowed only two runs to score in five innings of work. 

“Parker Harrington came in and did a fantastic job of keeping us in the game,” McCardle noted. 

Meanwhile, Oak Grove’s Kade Shannon drew a walk to lead off the fourth, and two batters later, Tate Ryder drove him in with an RBI triple, cutting the lead to 8-2. Then, after back-to-back Warriors were hit by a pitch, Jones cut it to 8-4 with a two-run double. Booth followed with an RBI groundout and later scored on a wild pitch, making it 8-6. 

The Yellow Jackets added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth, but still the Warriors were in prime position to tie or take the lead in the seventh. With nobody out, Jones and Alex Bolling singled, and DeeJay Booth drew a walk to load the bases for Oak Grove. Cade Cuevas cut the lead to two with a sacrifice-fly that scored Jones, but a groundout and strikeout cut the Warrior rally short. 

“We just couldn’t recover,” McCardle said. “We tried, we fought, we had some more opportunities, but we just didn’t recover. But I’m really proud of our guys and the way they fought back into the game. But like I said, you get in a hole that deep against a good team, it’s tough to come out of it.”

Oak Grove finishes the season 22-9, while St. Martin (25-7) advances to face Biloxi for the Class 6A South State championship next week. 

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