Nine outs away from taking a 1-0 series lead in the Class 4A State Championship series, the Sumrall Bobcats held a seemingly comfortable, 7-2 advantage over New Hope on Thursday at Trustmark Park, but coach Larry Knight wanted more and for just reason.
After scoring seven runs between the third and fifth inning, including a five spot in the fourth, Knight’s Bobcats were held scoreless in the game’s final two innings, as New Hope rallied to steal Game 1 of the series. Presley Hall completed the comeback for the Trojans with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the seventh and propelled New Hope to an 8-7 win.
“We had several hits, some big hits early, and did some things to make it happen there in the fourth inning,” Knight said. “But the game was so early that I felt like we were gonna have to keep on scoring runs.”
New Hope struck first in the second inning with a two-run single from Jonathan Whittington, but the Bobcats answered in the third and cut the lead to 2-1 off an RBI single from Zane Berry. In the fourth, Dannis Jackson gave Sumrall their first lead, 3-2, with a two-out, two-run single. Jackson and Hayden Barrett then scored on the same passed ball, extending the Bobcat lead to 5-2. With RBI singles from Graham Crawford and Javan Williams, it ballooned to 7-2 in the top of the fifth inning.
After having their lead cut to 7-3 in the bottom of the fifth, three Bobcats were walked to load the bases with only one out in the top of the sixth, but a strikeout and groundout kept them off the board in the frame.
“That was a big inning for us where we felt like we could put the game away, and we didn’t do it,” Knight said. “We stressed that to them prior too when we were up 7-2. ‘Let’s keep working, let’s keep scoring runs’, and we let them off the hook there. All it takes are some breaks and them to get a little energy on their side, and that’s what happened.”
Sumrall starting pitcher Halen Sanford went five innings. After Sanford walked the first batter he saw in the bottom of the sixth, Knight called on sidearmer John Cody Stogner out of the Bobcat bullpen. New Hope followed with three runs in the inning to make it a 7-6 ballgame heading to the seventh. There, the Bobcats left two more runners on base, and the Trojans used two base hits and a walk to load them with nobody out. Stallone Shelton then tied it with an RBI single, and Hall followed with one of his own for the walk-off winner.
Now, for the fourth time this postseason, Sumrall is put in a must-win situation. However, this will be the first time the Bobcats are tasked with winning two in a row. It all starts Friday for Game 2 of the series, which is scheduled for 7 pm in Pearl.
“We’ve been here in several series,” Knight said. “I told them, ‘Unfortunately you’re making me have this conversation every round it seems like’. That happened again today, and I know they’ll be back ready to play tomorrow.”
With a bevy of pitching options moving forward, Knight says they’re in good shape moving forward.
“If we get to Saturday, we feel good about it,” he said. “If we make it go three, we like our chances.”