Biloxi finishes off sweep of Petal SaturdayBy ANDREW ABADIE,
PETAL – Down by five in the bottom of the seventh inning, Petal found itself with an opportunity to potentially win Game 2 of the series against Biloxi.
In the seventh, the Panthers caught a break with an error and walk to put its first two leadoff batters on base. Matt Mercer followed with an RBI single cutting the deficit to four. The Panthers almost managed to tack on more runs, as Colton Rainey hit a ball down the third base line that potentially could have scored two more runs, but controversially, the home plate umpire called the ball foul.
Biloxi won Game 2 of the series against Petal 15-11 and swept Petal to advance to the third round of the 6A playoffs.
“Right there in the last inning, I was proud of my guys for getting on base and fighting,” Petal coach Shane Kelly said. “Trying to get back in the game, we needed a few breaks to go our way and the umpire saw it foul so that’s what the call was, but we have got to play through that.”
Nonetheless, Petal’s final inning was just an example of the resiliency the team showed, not just throughout Game 2, but in the playoffs and final stretch of the season. After opening the season 1-6, the Panthers finished 7-3 in the final stretch of the season and unexpectedly swept D’Iberville in the first round of the playoffs. Even in Game 1 against Biloxi, the Panthers never quit despite being down 10-1 and staged a six-run comeback before falling short 10-7.
“From Game 1 of this year to where we are now, we’ve improved tremendously,” Kelly said. “We got a lot of guys coming back for next year. Our seniors showed good leadership this year and I think that’s one of the reasons we were able to work through some of the tough times we had early. It’s bright for the future and we’re going to look forward to what’s coming next year.”
Biloxi jumped out to a 5-1 lead over the Petal, however, the Panthers answered back by putting up eight runs in the fourth inning, five of which came with two outs.
Petal drove the pitch count up early on Biloxi’s starting pitcher Matthew Delano, who threw 28 pitches in the first inning and had 90 by the end of his outing in the fourth.
In the fourth, Delano allowed all eight runs off two walks and five hits which gave Petal a 9-5 lead.
“Lately we’ve had some big run innings and putting up a lot,” Kelly said. “That was one thing that was on our side was trying to get starters off the mound, get into bullpens and give us a chance to win the game. We’ve been hitting the ball [and pitching] here really well and lately. We just had to figure out a few things that are what we we’re working on. But we played well enough to fight and get in there.”
Much like Biloxi, Petal had pitching trouble, as the Panthers’ pitching struggled throughout the game. Between five of Petal’s pitchers, Biloxi put up 20 hits and was walked nine times in the game.
The Indians chipped away at Petal’s 9-5 lead and scored three more runs in the fifth inning cutting the Panther’s lead 9-8.
In the sixth inning, Biloxi came up big as Delano, who was the very reason Petal took the lead, hit a grand slam and retook the lead for the Indians 12-10. Delano finished the game 3-for-3, was walked twice and drove in five RBI.
Petal finished with 11 hits with Blake Hooks leading the offense and finishing 2-for-3 with a walk and three RBI.
“We were an inexperienced team coming into the season,” Kelly said. “I thought these guys handled everything very well and handled adversity. We just need to get our feet wet. I look forward to the years to come but this senior group will be one that I remember. Being my first year and [we took] the first step in this new era.”