Oak Grove wins firework-filled Game 1 against St. MartinBy PATRICK MAGEE/THE SUN HERALD,
ST. MARTIN – If Thursday night's Game 1 is any indication of what's to come, the rest of the St. Martin-Oak Grove playoff series will not be lacking in fireworks.
Oak Grove senior center fielder John Rhys Plumlee knocked the first pitch of the game over the center field wall and hit a two-run triple to the same part of the park in the fourth inning as the Warriors pulled off a 6-3 win at St. Martin in the opener of the third-round Class 6A baseball series.
Plumlee, an Ole Miss signee, was the biggest star on the field Thursday night, but many of the fans left the park buzzing about what happened away from the game action.
It all began following Plumlee's homer when he rounded third and headed for home. Oak Grove head coach Chris McCardle, who was coaching third at the time, and St. Martin assistant Hayden Cox were clearly irritated with each other and exchanged heated words as St. Martin head coach Kary Bridges stepped between the two men to avoid a physical confrontation.
There was a long delay as umpires spoke with both head coaches in an attempt to diffuse the situation.
While the game seemed to go by without any further incident, emotions again boiled over after the game when the two teams separated following the post-game handshake.
Bridges, Cox and McCardle all seemed fired up as they spoke in the middle of the field.
Calmer heads eventually prevailed, but that doesn't mean that either side was happy about how things played out at Les French Field on Thursday night.
“Our guys play the game the right way and they don't yell at the other teams,” said Bridges, who is a former Oak Grove head coach. “They yell for their teams. Some folks maybe a little bit north of us think that's okay, but we're not going to be intimidated by anybody.”
McCardle chalked it up to just another night at the ballpark.
“It's just part of the game. Both teams were ready to play,” he said. “It's unfortunate. It shouldn't happen out here with these kids around. We'll move on from it.”
Game 2 of the three-game series is set for 7 p.m. on Friday at Oak Grove.
Oak Grove's Kris Jones came up with his own solo homer to push the lead to 2-0 in the third inning, but St. Martin slowed the Oak Grove momentum with a 3-run bottom of the frame.
St. Martin senior catcher R.J. Fletcher took advantage of a pair of Luke Lyon walks with a drive to left center that rolled all the way to the wall, allowing Landon Pankonin and Leo Harris to score and tie the game at 2-2 with one out.
Fletcher later advanced to third on a wild pitch and was brought home on a ground out to shortstop by Brennen Study to give the Yellow Jackets a 3-2 lead.
Plumlee again provided the spark for the Warriors in the third inning when he stepped to the plate with two men on and two out and sent a rocket over the center fielder's head. He reached third with ease and pushed across both runs to regain the lead at 4-3.
“It was a curve ball,” Plumlee said. “He got with me with it before. I swung over the top of it. He came back with it and kind of left it high. I put some backspin on it and it carried for me.”
Jones followed with an RBI single and Oak Grove led 5-3.
Plumlee finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
“He's a special player that don't come around very often,” McCardle said. “I've had a couple of guys like that over the years He's a special kid, a special player. We're fortunate to have him. He comes to practice and works every day. I'm just glad he's on our side.”
St. Martin starting pitcher Leif Moore (9-1) went the distance, giving up 3 earned runs on eight hits. He struck out 13 and walked five.
“He got it up (against Plumlee in the first inning), but it was up and a good fastball to lead off the game. The guy just hit it,” Bridges said. That was probably up, but to take anything away from the guy hitting it just being a little disingenuous. He hit it good. They came out and were aggressive early. They're a good hitting team. They've seen pitching like we have with George County and all that.”
Lyon (8-2) picked up the win, giving up two earned runs on four hits with seven strikeouts and six walks in 6 innings.
*Photo credit: Alyssa Newton/The Sun Herald