SUMRALL - Efficient pitching, timely hitting, a hidden ball trick and someone named Knight celebrating just seems to be part of a typical baseball season for Sumrall as the Bobcats punched their ticket back to the state championship.
Instead of Larry Knight this time, his son Andrew Knight was doing the celebrating as he threw a complete game in Sumrall's 3-2 win over Stone in the second game of the 4A South State championship series.
"It's one of the best feelings," Andrew Knight said. "I've been seeing state champions on the sign, and it's been a dream of mine to get here."
Knights night didn't begin memorable as a combination of the nerves and playing in front of a packed crowd that easily numbered in the thousands got the best of the senior.
"It was a lot of energy, and it's a big crowd," Knight said. "It was a lot of adrenaline. I've never really been in that spot before. South State is a huge game. It was a rough first inning, but I settled in."
Knight walked and then hit the first two batters of the game in the first inning. Stone then scored off a throwing error by Sumrall's Ethan Aultman on a throwdown. The Tomcats pushed the lead to 2-0 with an RBI single.
However, like Knight Stone's starting pitcher, Cortez Dennis struggled with nerves in the first inning as he walked two batters with one out. Dennis then allowed a run to score off from a balk. Cade Dedeaux then tied the game to 2-2 with an RBI single.
From there, both pitchers settled as he struck out six straight batters between third and fifth innings.
Dennis stranded four Sumrall runners between the second and fifth innings and struck out the side in the third.
Stone's offense found life in the sixth inning, but as the Tomcats had runners at first and second with one out, Sumrall (31-3) pulled the hidden ball trick as Cade Dedeaux caught a fly ball for the second out, which set up shortstop Marshall Phillips and second baseman Ty Little's play.
"He caught and threw it in, and I pretended to catch the ball," Phillips said. "I faked the throwback to the pitcher, and Andrew Knight acted like he caught it and turned around. But Ty Little had the ball the whole time and (the runner) came off the bag, and Ty tagged him. It really gave us momentum.
"In past games, we have tried, and finally, in the biggest game of our careers, it worked."
That momentum followed Sumrall in the bottom half of the frame as the Bobcats loaded the bases with one out, Aultman, at the plate.
"We were going to safety squeeze on that first pitch, but it was a ball," Davis said. "He took a good cut on the foul ball, and honestly, Ethan doesn't strike out a whole lot. That's why I took the bunt off, and so we just put something in play, and it worked."
As Davis figured, Aultman put the ball in play with a hard-hit ball to Stone's shortstop to drive in the go-ahead run for the Bobcats.
"I figured off-speed was coming, and he threw the breaking ball and hung out, and I just did my job," Aultman said. "(Coach) was going to safety squeeze, and I was a little nervous, but that was a ball, and he let me hit it."
Knight retired Stone in order to end the game. In total, Knight struck out 10 batters and allowed two runs off five hits while hitting two batters and walking another.
On the opposite side of the mound, Dennis threw 5.1 innings and allowed two runs off three hits in 4.1 innings and struck out seven while walking five batters.
"(Stone) has a great team," Davis said. "That's why they have made it this far. They don't make errors. They don't give you anything free. It takes a hit and a walk here and there to get a flare, and that's how we scored."
In a rematch of the 2019 South State series, Sumrall will face West Lauderdale for the state championship.
"Trustmark is their home away from home too," Davis said. "I knew when they moved to the north, and not to knock any of the north teams, but with West Lauderdale there, they would probably be competing there."