SUMRALL – Sumrall treated the opening game of the Class 4A baseball playoffs like it was just another day at the office.
The Bobcats were all business as the rolled methodically over Pass Christian 10-0 in six innings in the first game of the best-of-three first round series Friday night at Larry Knight Field.
Sumrall (25-3), No. 3 in the state in the Mississippi Gridiron Overall rankings and No. 1 in 4A, won its 19th consecutive game. The Pirates dropped to 8-18 overall. Game 2 of the series is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday at Pass Christian.
“I hope that these guys are hungry enough,” said Sumrall coach Larry Knight. “The past couple of years we’ve lost in the second round, so I hope they’re hungry for it, and it doesn’t matter who we play.
“It can be difficult when we’re a 1-seed and they’re a 4-seed, knowing they’re young and maybe hadn’t won a lot of games. One thing I’ve seen out of our guys is they haven’t had many letdowns. And I thought we were ready to play today.”
The Bobcats got a tremendous emergency start from junior J.C. Stogner, who stepped in when scheduled starter Hunter Barrett was scratched after coming down with strep throat.
Stogner, a side-arming right-hander, went the distance, as he gave up just three hits, struck out four and walked one.
“I found out I was starting about two hours before game time,” said Stogner. “I just had to get my mind right and throw strikes. I thought I had a good fastball tonight. My main focus is just to not do too much and not worry about strikeouts.”
Stogner (4-0) is normally the closer for Sumrall, but Knight gave him the start in a non-region game against Petal this past Saturday and liked what he saw.
“We started him against Petal, and he had a real good game,” said Knight. “We made some errors and it was a real windy day. We did that just in case we ran into a situation like this, where he could prepare himself as a starter.
“He’s done a great job for us all year in some pressure situations, and he’s really grown up a lot after coming into the season with no varsity innings at all.”
Offensively, Sumrall was the picture of efficiency, scoring in every inning except the fifth, making the most of nine hits and 12 walks issued by Pass Christian pitching.
The first two batters in the Bobcats’ order, seniors Dannis Jackson and Zane Berry, accounted for seven runs and reached base eight times in 10 plate appearances.
“They have to throw to us, because we’re so dangerous throughout the lineup,” said Berry, who had a double and two singles, driving in three runs. “We know that if you don’t throw to one guy, you’ve got to throw to the next.”
Jackson and Berry got Sumrall off on the right foot in the bottom of the first inning off Pirates starter Dustin Allison (2-5). Jackson drew a walk and Berry followed with an RBI double to the fence in left-center field.
“Any time Dannis gets on I know I have to move him over any way I can,” said Berry, who leads the Bobcat regulars with a .459 batting average. “I got the pitch I wanted and I was hoping to put a drive into it, and luckily I did that. I just want to do whatever I can for my team.”
The Bobcats added two more runs in the first, getting a sacrifice fly by senior Billy Garrity and a run-scoring single by Tanner Morgan.
Sumrall made it 5-0 in the second. Jackson led off with a bunt single to third base, stole second and scored on a single by Berry. Garrity drove in Berry with a single.
It was the same scenario in the third, as Jackson got a one-out walk, stole second and scored on Berry’s single, two wild pitches and a botched pickoff play to second base got Berry home.
The Bobcats added an unearned run in the fourth, with junior Sully Clark driving in the run, and Sumrall ended the game in the sixth with a pair of runs, both coming in on a two-out single by senior Graham Crawford.
“The top of our order, when they get on base, we have some things that can happen,” said Knight. “Both those guys can run, and between Graham and Billy, usually one of those guys are going to be swinging. I thought we did a good job throughout the lineup.”
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