HATTIESBURG – In the first game of a two-game series between two of the state’s top-ranked teams, it was visiting George County that drew first blood over Oak Grove.
The Warriors committed two costly errors in a decisive four-run rally that propelled the Rebels to a 5-1 victory Tuesday night at Harry Breland Field.
George County, ranked second in the state in both the Overall and Class 6A rankings, improved to 14-2 and 5-0 in Region 5-6A. Oak Grove, the No. 5 team in both rankings, dropped to 12-4 and 3-2.
“We made the cardinal sin of not playing defense when we’re supposed to,” Oak Grove coach Chris McCardle said. “We gave them the lead with some bonehead plays. But we had some chances, left a lot of runners on base.”
Approximately two-dozen major-league scouts were in attendance to look at Rebel ace Trevor McDonald, and the senior right-hander delivered, for the most part.
Mixing a wicked curve with a biting slider and a 90-plus mph fastball, McDonald (6-0) was impressive, striking out nine and walking none.
But the Warriors got seven hits and left 11 runners on base, so they had their chances, and benefitted from a solid performance on the mound from junior right-hander Luke Lyon (3-3).
“I thought Luke did a really fantastic job,” McCardle said. “He kept us in the game. He had a couple of walks in that third inning, when we didn’t pay defense behind him. But he settled in and kept us in it.”
The third inning proved decisive for George County, as the Rebels scored four unearned runs. The Rebels got a leadoff walk, then the Warriors threw away a potential double-play ball to put two runners on with none out.
Another walk loaded the bases, then a dropped pop fly allowed a run to score, although the out was recorded on the infield-fly rule. McDonald made it 2-0 with an RBI single, and his brother Kevin McDonald drove in two runs with a two-out single down the left field line.
But Oak Grove responded in the bottom of the third with a leadoff single by junior Liam Breithaupt, then a one-out double by Kris Jones put runners at second and third. However, McDonald got an out of the inning on a popup behind first base, then a groundout to end the inning.
Lyon was in some trouble in the top of the fourth, as the Rebels got a pair of singles to open the inning, but Lyon made an alert play to get the lead runner at third base on a sacrifice attempt, then got a pop fly and a groundout to keep it at 4-0
In the bottom of the fourth, the Warriors loaded the bases with one out on two singles and an infield error. But McDonald got a pair of strikeouts to end the threat, then made it 5-0 by smoking the first pitch in the top of the fifth well over the left field fence.
Oak Grove got that run back in the bottom of the fifth, when Jones led off with a single, went to third on a single by Kade Shannon and scored when DeeJay Booth beat out the relay on a double-play ball.
“(McDonald) had a pretty good slider, but I don’t think he was dominating,” Booth, who reached base in all four plate appearances on two singles, a walk and a fielder’s choice, said. “I still like where we are as a team. We know we can go down there and win.”
The Warriors got a runner to second base in the sixth and seventh, but failed to score, as Logan Tanner, the prospective starter for the Rebels in Friday’s return game at Lucedale, got a strikeout to finish off the victory.
“We’ve got to get tougher at the plate,” McCardle said. “We struck out too much tonight.
“I know (McDonald) was throwing hard, but we’ve seen him before. I think maybe some guys were trying too hard, but when a guy is throwing 93-95, you’ve got to let it fly when you get a chance.”