HATTIESBURG – The Oak Grove Warriors put themselves in the driver’s seat Tuesday night.
After falling to George County 5-1 in the first of three games between the two, the Warriors offense came alive in the series. They scored 25 runs in the final two games against George County, with the latter of the two wins coming Tuesday night in an 11-4 effort over the Rebels.
“We’re never out it,” Oak Grove coach Chris McCardle said. “If we come to play, we’re pretty good.”
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With the win, Oak Grove is one win over Meridian away from claiming the region title for the third straight season. The Warriors will travel to Meridian Friday with first pitch set for 7 p.m.
“We have one more, so we’ll be ready and take care of the next one,” McCardle said.
Oak Grove used 12 hits – three for home runs – to score its 11 runs, and it all started when senior Kade Shannon belted a three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning. His rocket to left field got the offense rolling.
“I wasn’t thinking that at the time. I was just living in the moment, I guess,” Shannon said. “Looking back on it now, I think it definitely jump-started our offense and it was a big factor in the night. I’m glad I could contribute to that and get something started.”
The early-inning rally began when senior John Rhys Plumlee doubled to shallow right field. The George County right fielder called off the second baseman on a high pop up, but the ball still found the ground in-between the two fielders. Senior Kris Jones walked during the next at-bat, then junior DeeJay Booth reached on an error to score Plumlee.
Shannon stepped in the box and blasted a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall.
“I got ahead first pitch,” Shannon said. “He threw one in the dirt, so I sat fastball. He usually stays around the outside of the plate and I make my money around the inside to middle part of the plate. He left one over the inside part of the plate, and I just had to rotate my hips and turn on one. It got out of there and I was super pumped and super excited.”
Oak Grove pushed ahead 5-0 in the second inning when Jones hit a sacrifice fly to center to plate Plumlee. But during that time, Jones was on the mound pitching around George County base runners during most of his outing. He pitched the first 3.1 innings while giving up three earned runs on four hits with five strikeouts and two walks. He also hit three batters.
George County had leadoff men reach base in all four of the innings Jones’ started, but the Oak Grove pitcher escaped every threat except the fourth. He hit the leadoff batter in the first and second innings, but retired the next three batters in the first and recorded two strikeouts in the second to keep the Rebels off the board.
In the third inning, Jones allowed back-to-back singles to start the frame, then after two strikeouts, he hit another batter to load the bases. His fifth strikeout of the game ended that scoring opportunity, though. Finally Jones’ luck on the mound ran out, as he allowed two runs in the fourth inning before Luke Lyon entered to pitch.
“(Jones) did a good job for us,” McCardle said. “I told him to give us three innings and he got to the fourth, which was good. In George County he went seven and did a really good job against them, so I felt like he would do a better job starting the game rather than if the roles were reversed.”
George County cut Oak Grove’s lead to 5-3 in the fourth, but Lyon only allowed one more run the rest of the game. He finished the last 3.2 innings in relief and only gave up one unearned run while scattering four hits with seven strikeouts.
“Luke, anytime he comes in, he’s going to be lights out,” McCardle said.
Lyon and Jones also added solo home runs in the fourth inning to push the Warriors ahead 7-3. In the sixth, Cade Cuevas picked up a two-RBI single to make it a 9-4 game, and Turner Swistak and Lyon had consecutive RBI singles to extend the lead to 11-4.
Shannon was one of four Oak Grove hitters to record two hits, as Cuevas, Lyon and Booth also accomplished that feat.