Mistakes add up in Oak Grove Game 3 loss to St. Martin

By CAMAL PETRO,

ST. MARTIN – Like a snowball rolling down a hill, errors and miscues started to mount up for the Oak Grove Warriors in Game 3 of a 6A third-round series.

In the end, the on-field errors and mental mistakes were too much, as the St. Martin Yellow Jackets ended the Warriors’ season with a 9-7 win in the rubber match of the best-of-three series. St. Martin will match up with Biloxi in the 6A South State title series.

“To get to this point, I’ve been here so many times, your team has to make it happen. It just doesn’t happen,” Oak Grove coach Chris McCardle said. “You have to earn it, and we didn’t earn it. We made too many mistakes like we did (Friday night).

“Every time we made a mistake, they made us pay for it.”

St. Martin scored seven runs in the first two innings, and all of those runs were unearned. Oak Grove had an error in the first inning to help St. Martin take a 2-1 lead, then two more errors and a lost ball in the twilight sky allowed the Yellow Jackets to take a 7-1 advantage quickly.

In the top of the first, Alex Bolling’s sacrifice fly gave the Warriors a 1-0 lead, but it didn’t last long. St. Martin’s leadoff hitter, Leo Harris, reached on an error, then back-to-back singles tied the game. A passed ball two batters later gave St. Martin the lead for good.

In the bottom of the second, a hit batter and a single put runners on first and second with no outs. Senior Landon Pankonin put down a bunt that was fielded perfectly by Oak Grove first baseman Kade Shannon, and he tried to get the lead runner at third. It was a good throw, but the ball went through the third baseman’s glove to load the bases.

Two batters later, Harris smacked a grounder to third base, but Oak Grove committed another error and that gave St. Martin a 3-1 lead. Two singles and a hit batter later, St. Martin had built a 7-1 lead through the first two innings.

“We fell apart,” McCardle said. “We didn’t handle the atmosphere of the game. They were panicking and did everything they were told not to do. Usually, older teams don’t do it, but we did it. We got in a hole early and we made some boneheaded plays.”

By the time the Warriors found any life offensively, the Yellow Jackets led 8-1. In the top of the fourth, Shannon led off the frame with a walk before being sacrificed over to second. Senior Tate Ryder tripled to right field to plate the first run for the Warriors, then Kris Jones doubled home two more runs to cut the St. Martin lead to 8-4.

A groundout and a passed ball made it an 8-6 game. After that, the Warriors were sat down in order in the fifth and sixth innings.

However, trailing 9-6 in the final frame, Oak Grove tried to stage a comeback. Jones, junior DeeJay Booth and Bolling loaded the bases with a single, walk and single, respectively, then senior Cade Cuevas hit a sac fly to score a run. Oak Grove had two outs to play with, but the tying run was left stranded at second base to end the game.

“Even with all of (the mistakes) happening, we still had a chance to win the game,” McCardle said. “We were a hit away with one out and two men on to tie the game up, but we just couldn’t finish. I’m proud of the way we fought back.”

Jones led the Warriors’ offense with three hits, two RBI and two runs, while Ryder added a 2-for-3 performance.

Jones got things started on the bump and lasted two-plus innings. He allowed eight runs on five hits, but only one run was earned. Junior Parker Harrington pitched the final four innings while scattering three hits. He struck out six and allowed just one unearned run to keep the Warriors alive in the contest.

“(Harrington) gave us a chance to win,” McCardle said. “It was close to getting out of hand, I thought, and we kept it a ballgame.”

Oak Grove’s season comes to an end with a 22-9 overall record.

“We’ll always be in the mix,” McCardle said. “We’re here every year, and (the players) have to understand that you have to earn it.”