Photo/Zac Chamblee

Sumrall coach Larry Knight is a firm believer that great teams do not have back-to-back letdowns. On Monday, his team improved to 2-0 in games following a loss this postseason. Twice they’ve lost a Game 2, and twice they’ve prevailed in a do-or-die Game 3. Backs against the wall, the Bobcats bounced back from a home loss to St. Stanislaus in Game 2 and dismantled the Rock-A-Chaws on the road in Monday’s decisive Game 3, 11-0 (6 innings)

Sumrall (30-5) advances to play for the Class 4A South State championship for the first time since 2016. 

Knight says he liked their chances to get back if they could jump on St. Stanislaus early, and Billy Garrity made sure that was the case. In the top of the first inning, after back-to-back one-out singles from Zane Berry and Graham Crawford, Garrity smashed his 12th homer of the year, a three-run shot, off Rock-A-Chaw pitcher Colin Frederickson to put the Bobcats up 3-0.

Garrity, a Southern Miss signee, says he anticipated a fastball on the 3-1 pitch from Frederickson.

“That’s what I was anticipating, so I just put a good swing on it and got the result I wanted,” Garrity said. “I’m glad I could start the game like that and get everybody pumped up and stuff like that. Everybody else did good. I couldn’t have got three RBI without the people in front of me.”

Bobcat starting pitcher Kros Sivley followed by working a 1-2-3 bottom of the first. Sumrall’s ace a season ago, Sivley was sidelined with tendinitis and bursitis for a handful of weeks recently, but the sophomore right-hander said Monday’s outing was reminiscent of last year. 

After back-to-back 1-2-3 innings in the first and second, Sivley plunked a Rock-A-Chaw batter with one out in the third, but the very next batter hit into a double play to end the inning. 

“I didn’t feel like I had by best stuff at the beginning,” Sivley said. “In the bullpen, I was a little shaky. But my defense was behind me a lot, and I can always count on them to help me out.”

Sivley went on to toss a two-hit shutout while adding seven strikeouts of Rock-A-Chaw batters. A week ago, he was on a strict pitch count in his return from injury, but Knight felt good about him throwing 80-90 pitches Monday. Sivley never left the mound and still managed to go lower, finishing with 77 in six innings. 

“His arm is really probably better than it’s felt all year right now,” Knight said. “It worked out, and fortunately we had the [pitching] depth to be able to overcome not having to use him too much. Tonight was a tremendous job by him.”

After Garrity’s first inning homer, the Bobcats pounded out eight more hits and eight more runs en route to the win in six innings. Dannis Jackson led the way with three hits, including an RBI triple in Sumrall’s five-run fourth inning. Zane Berry and Graham Crawford each had two hits for the Bobcats, who added another run in the fifth and two more in the sixth. 

Now four wins away from their first state title since 2015, the Bobcats advance to face West Lauderdale (27-3) for Class 4A South State. It’s the second straight year the teams will face off in the postseason after the Knights eliminated Sumrall in the second round a season ago. 

“I think everybody expected [this matchup] before the season began,” Larry Knight said. “They’re a great team no doubt about it. We’ve seen them pretty much it seems like every year. It hasn’t been for South State until now, so it’s gonna be exciting. 

“They’re gonna be a tough, tough team to beat, but we’re just glad we’re here and have an opportunity to play them.”

Weather permitting, the highly-anticipated series is scheduled to start Thursday in Sumrall. First pitch is scheduled for 7 pm. 

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