Sumrall, Purvis advance to tough second-round matchups

By CAMAL PETRO,

With the first round in the books, the playoff schedule gets a little harder for the Purvis Tornadoes and Sumrall Bobcats in the second round of the 4A playoffs.

The No. 2-seeded Bobcats are matched up with defending 4A State Champions and No. 1 seed West Lauderdale next, while top-seed Purvis faces off against No. 3 St. Stanislaus. Both series start on Friday, as Sumrall hits the road for Game 1 while the Tornadoes play at home.

Sumrall (22-7) and the Knights (23-2) play at West Lauderdale Friday at 7 p.m., then Game 2 will be back in Sumrall Saturday night at 7 p.m. If necessary, Sumrall will hit the road Monday for Game 3 at 7 p.m.

West Lauderdale has very few, if any, weak spots on its team, as it’s hitting .333 as a team and the pitchers have combined for a 1.72 earned run average. The Knights look primed for another run at a state title. The Knights’ coach, Jerry Boatner, is also wrapping up a 50-year coaching career, so his players will be a little more motivated to win for the skipper, too.

“He’s been coaching 50 years and he’s just a legend in his state,” Sumrall coach Larry Knight said. “Of course (Petal coach) Larry Watkins just retired, but you don’t see coaches stay that length of time anymore. He does a tremendous job and they’re very well coached.”

Knight says West Lauderdale is a fundamentally sound team that likes to use small ball situations to its advantage. Earlier this season, the Bobcats struggled to field three straight bunt attempts by Purvis in extra innings, which caused them to lose that game, but Sumrall has worked on those situations and have corrected its mistakes.

Sumrall trotted out freshman Kros Sively and junior Halen Sandford to start Games 1 and 2 last week, and those will most likely be the second-round starters, too, as Knight rides the hot hands of his pitchers. Sively moved to 7-0 with a 0.31 ERA after his shutout win against Raymond, and Sanford added five innings of one-hit ball to drop his ERA down to 1.97 and improve his record to 4-1.

“Certainly Kros is, number’s-wise,  our top guy and he’s thrown well all year,” Knight said. “He’s done a tremendous job. Halen has done well and Hunter Barrett is also a guy in the mix.”

Barrett has been dealing with a hamstring injury since the Purvis series, according to Knight, but he’s coming back nicely.

West Lauderdale has a gauntlet of pitchers on its staff, though, which leads Knight to believe the first two games will be low scoring. Junior Chance Denson is 8-1 with a 1.71 ERA in 57.1 innings, sophomore Ben Ethridge has logged 42.1 innings and has a 0.83 ERA and senior Jake Mason is 7-1 with a 1.68 ERA in 41.2 innings.

“They’re probably one of the strongest pitching staffs in the state, in any classification,” Knight said. “They have two guys who're in the mid-80s, and maybe one of them in the upper 80s at times. They have several shutouts between, so we have a huge challenge for us because those are legit arms.”

In another 4A matchup, Purvis is set to host St. Stanislaus Friday at 6 p.m. for Game 1, then Game 2 will be in Bay St. Louis Saturday at 2 p.m. If the series is tied 1-1, the two will play again Monday in Purvis at 6 p.m.

Purvis coach Tony Farlow is mixing up his rotation in the second round, too. He’ll send sophomore ace Jesse Johnson out to the mound for Game 1, compared to starting in Game 2 against McComb in the first round. Johnson pitched the Tuesday before the first-round series, so that was why Farlow waited a day to trot him out to the bump.

Sophomore Dakota Lee started Game 1 last week and struck out 12 McComb batters in the 9-1 win. Despite the lop-sided result, Farlow wasn’t too happy with his team after the game. However, he did say his team’s mentality was a lot better in Game 2 and he hopes to see that continue against the Rock-a-Chaws.

“I think we were focused and a little bit more into what was going on,” Farlow said. “I think after we won the division, we kind of got a little relaxed as far as our attitude and work habits in practice. We just needed to get rejuvenated a little bit.”

St. Stanislaus (11-10) is three years removed from a 4A State Championship in 2015, and it’s been a product of a tough region the last couple of seasons. This season, it finished third in a region featuring East Central (20-4) and Vancleave (21-7).

Farlow hopes the name on the opponents’ jersey, not its record, will get his players ready for an intense second-round series.

“St. Stanislaus is in a tough division and they finished third in the division,” Farlow said. “I know they’ve played a good schedule on the coast with their non-division games, and I just think it’s going to be a good series between us two.”

The Rock-a-Chaws have two left-handed pitchers they’ll most likely start in the first two games of the series, and Farlow said that’s been a problem with his team this season.

“I don’t know if they have overbearing pitching, but they have two left-handers they’ll run out there who will give them a chance to win,” Farlow said. “We, honestly, have not hit left-handers good this year. It seems like left-handers have kind of handcuffed us this year, but once we can get them out of the game and get the right-hander in, we’ve had a little bit more success.”

Senior Daniel Wolf leads the St. Stanislaus pitching staff with a 2.33 ERA in 48 innings. Wolf is 4-3 in eight starts this season and he’s struck out 32 compared to 22 walks.