PETAL – Oak Grove took care of business against rival Petal 10-5 on Tuesday. The Warriors’ win keeps them one district game behind George Country for the first-place spot in Region 5-6A and sets the two teams up for a collision course next Tuesday.
“It was a big win for lots of reasons,” Oak Grove coach Chris McCardle said. “We’re past the point of it being Petal. We know what to expect from them. They don’t quit. We’re in the middle of a division race. We had to win this one in order to be first, so it kept us alive for that.”
Oak Grove jumped out a to a 6-0 lead over Petal as the Warriors put up five runs in the first inning. Petal’s starting pitcher Cole Sellers loaded the bases and walked in a run. Oak Grove then capitalized on the situation with a two-run double from Cade Cuevas and an RBI single from Luke Lyon. However, by the second inning, the Warriors had some defensive and pitching miscues that let the Panthers get back into the game.
After retiring Petal in order in the first inning, Oak Grove’s starting pitcher Lyon loaded the bases and gave up a pair of walks and a single. The Warriors self-inflicted wounds followed with a run being walked in, two more scoring from an error and the final scoring from a wild pitch.
“It was just me trying to press a little bit too much after having a good first inning,” Lyon said. “Then I slowed everything down and let my team work behind me.”
From there, Lyon let his curveball and fastball do the work as he held Petal scoreless for the rest of his five-inning outing. By the end of Lyon’s night, he allowed four runs on two hits, walked four batters and struck out eight.
“I thought we came out ready to play,” McCardle said. “We got up early in the game but I thought we relaxed. In the top of the second, I saw some of the demeanor that some of our kids went to a lackadaisical approach and thinking Luke is going to get up there and do what he does.”
Despite the Warriors’ fourth inning, Oak Grove’s offense stayed efficient throughout the game putting up 10 hits and scoring in every inning except for the fifth.
“We need to understand that when we get a lead, we have got to act like we started the game over,” McCardle said. “So we don’t relax there like we did in that second inning and give away runs. Momentum changes quickly.”
Petal’s pitching staff struggled as it went through four pitchers. Altogether, the Panther staff walked four batters and hit three more, as well as had three passed balls or wild pitches.
“I think after seeing a couple of good (pitchers) against George County, that helped us a lot just to see some better arms,” John Rhys Plumlee, who went 3-for-5 with an RBI, said. “To come out here, and it be a little bit less than it was, it made it look a little bit better for us. When our offense is working for us, our pitching does really well. Luke does a really good job for us. All of our pitchers do a really good job for us. If we get our offense clicking, defense clicking and pitching clicking, we’re a pretty hard team to beat.”
Oak Grove will now look ahead to George County. If the Warriors beat the Rebels, the win would put Oak Grove ahead in the standings since they would be the winners of the three-game series.
“We’re getting close to where we need to be,” McCardle said. “We’re starting to click. Offensively, we’re coming around good. We’ve played good competition in the last couple of weeks. I expected us to rise to the occasion like we have the last couple of weeks. I’m proud of where we are but we’ve got a ways to go. We’ve got a couple of things we’ve got to fix.”