SUMRALL – Sumrall opened the Class 4A playoffs the way one would expect from the third-ranked team in the state, with an emphatic victory.
The Bobcats made short work of short-handed Raymond Thursday night, scoring 12 runs in the bottom of the first inning and coasting to a 17-0 run-rule triumph to take the first game of the best-of-three game series.
Sumrall (25-2) can polish off the Rangers (13-13) at home Friday night in the second game of the series. That game was originally scheduled to be played at Raymond but was moved because of the forecast of rain in the Jackson area Friday.
In the unlikely event of a Ranger win on Friday, the third game of the series would be played on Saturday at Raymond.
“We don’t want to go to Jackson,” Sumrall coach Andy Davis told his team in the postgame huddle.
It is doubtful that the Bobcats will have to make that trip, since the Rangers only brought 10 players to Sumrall on Thursday, with four players out due to Covid issues who will probably not return in time to play Friday.
“Being short-handed makes it tough on them,” Davis said. “You want to come out and treat the game right way. I wanted us to come out and hit. We hit the ball hard in the first inning. I know their pitcher was trying his best, but we squared some balls up.
“We had a big crowd here, and I told these guys, there were some people her who had never seen us play.”
After a rocky start, the Bobcats were all business. Senior left-hander Kros Sibley had trouble finding the strike zone, walking the first two batters he faced. That quickly brought Davis to the mound for a brisk pep talk.
“He just told me to throw strikes,” said Sibley (5-2). “That’s what every coach says. After that, I tried to breathe a little bit and started throwing it in the zone. I was just amped up. I had so much adrenaline, and I didn’t handle it very well.”
Once he got settled in, Sibley was unhittable. He struck out the next three batters he faced, the struck out the side in the top of the second on nine pitches.
Davis blamed a long gap between Sibley’s warm-up in the bullpen and the first pitch of the game, because Sumrall honored former coach Larry Knight by retiring his No. 11 jersey prior to the game.
“I was not happy,” Davis said. “Honesty, I wanted to get his heart rate up. I was probably going to holler at him even if he was doing good, because I wanted that adversity to be in there. And he responded.”
Once the Bobcats came up to bat in the bottom of the first, that was all she wrote for the Rangers and junior left-hander Charles Jordan.
Sumrall sent 16 men to the plate, scoring 12 runs on nine hits, three errors, two walks and a hit batter. The big blow was a grand slam from junior Marshall Phillips that made it 10-0.
“We knew (Jordan) was one of those guys who was going to throw slow,” Phillips said. “We worked all week just staying back, staying on that bat side and not reaching out for the ball.
“I had two strikes. I reached out for the first two (pitches), and I knew I had to stay back on the bat side. He threw me a curveball, I stayed back on it and hit it well.”
Senior Hayden Barrett drew a walk to start the carnage, then junior Hayes Raner laid down a sacrifice bunt that the Raymond catcher threw into the rightfield corner. Barrett scored easily and Raner also scored when the throw from the outfield was misplayed.
Phillips doubled in his first at-bat of the inning and scored on a double by senior Hayden Nored. Seniors Cade Dedeaux and Ty Little each had RBI singles, junior Levi Odom drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and the Bobcats then loaded the bases setting the stage for Phillip’s bomb.
“You just have to stay focused and stay loose,” Sibley said. “You can’t hold back any. You’ve got to keep coming right at them.”
Sumrall added two more runs in the bottom of second, as Davis started clearing his bench after the second time through the batting order. Junior Cole Broom had a run-scoring single, and an error allowed the other run to score.
Senior Liam Munn had an RBI single in the third, as the Bobcats scored twice more, and another run came across in the fourth on a dropped third strike with two out.
Junior Andrew Knight pitched the third and fourth innings, and senior Jose Morales worked the top of the fifth. With no other options, Jordan (1-3) went all the way on the mound for Raymond.
Although this series would seem to be a virtual walkover, the Bobcats say they’ll continue to take a business-like approach to Friday’s Game 2.
“It’s easy to come out and go through the motions against a team that you know you’re much better than,” Phillips said. “I think we’ll come out ready to play like any other game.”
First pitch Friday is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
“It’s supposed to rain in the Jackson area tomorrow, and their coach said if their field gets any little bit of rain, they can’t play on it, because it doesn’t drain very well,” said Davis. “So, they’re going to come back down here, and we’re going to feed them after the game.”