New Hope hits walk-off in Game 1; Bobcats trail championship series 1-0

By CAMAL PETRO,

PEARL – The Sumrall offense scored seven runs off nine hits Thursday in Game 1 of the 4A State Championship series, but 11 runners left on base came back to haunt the Bobcats.

The New Hope Trojans scored six runs in the final three innings to complete the comeback, earning an 8-7 win and taking a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 is scheduled for a 7 p.m. first pitch Friday at Trustmark Park.

“We had some big hits early and made it happen there in the fourth inning, but the game was still early enough that I felt we would have to keep scoring runs,” Sumrall coach Larry Knight said.

Sumrall led 7-2 through four innings of play, and it had plenty of opportunities to extend the lead. The Bobcats only scored one run in the final three innings, while leaving two runners on base in the fifth inning, the bases loaded in the sixth and runners on the corners in the seventh.

“We had the bases loaded with one out and didn’t score. That was a big inning for us that we felt like we could put the game away and didn’t do it,” Knight said. “We stressed that to them prior to (that inning). ‘We’re up 7-2, let’s keeping working let’s keep scoring runs,’ and we left them off the hook there.”

Senior Halen Sanford didn’t pitch in the south state series, but he earned the Game 1 start and put his team in position to win. The right-hander found himself in some trouble in the second inning, but he found his rhythm and held New Hope scoreless in the third and fourth innings.

He walked the leadoff batter in the fifth inning before his day was done. He allowed four earned runs on six hits with two strikeouts and two walks.

“I’m very pleased with him,” Knight said. “He didn’t have his off-speed early, but he started getting his changeup over and competed. If he wouldn’t have gotten that walk in the last inning, then I was going to leave him out there. That gave them a little bit of energy.”

Trailing 2-0 after the second inning, senior Zane Berry singled to score sophomore Hayden Barrett, and that cut New Hope’s lead to 2-1. Then in the third inning, the Bobcats sent 10 runners to the plate to score five more runs and grab a 6-2 lead.

With two outs in the fifth, senior Dannis Jackson singled to plate the first two runs, then on a wild pitch, Barrett scored to make it 4-2. On the same wild pitch, while New Hope’s Payton Springfield was covering home, Jackson used his speed to score from second base to take the 5-2 lead. An RBI single during the same at-bat by Graham Crawford made it 6-2.

Junior Javan Williams picked up an RBI single in the fifth to push the lead to 7-2.

The Trojans didn’t give up, however. They scored one run in the bottom half of the fifth, then got to Sumrall reliever JC Stogner in the sixth and seventh to end the game on a walk-off. After Sanford allowed the leadoff walk in the sixth, New Hope used seven hits and a walk to score four earned runs of Stogner.

With the bases loaded in a tie game, eight-hole hitter Presley Hall sent a grounder toward first base and it was just out of reach of senior Mason Story, who, along with the rest of the infield, was playing in.

Hunter Barrett was warming up in the bullpen during the top of the seventh, but Knight opted not to make the switch to his senior.

“We felt like if we had an opportunity and if we needed to (make the switch), but JC has been our guy all year,” Knight said. “I didn’t want to get out there and Hunter throw, then they tie it up and next thing you know, he’s throwing 24, 25 (pitches) and we have to make a decision on him tomorrow. We felt like we had to go with JC there.”

Sumrall lost Game 1 of a playoff series for the first time this postseason, but a win-or-go-home contest is nothing new for the Bobcats. They’ve played in three Game 3s during their run to the 4A State Championship, but it’s the first time they’re forced to win the final two games of a series.

“We’ve been here in several series,” Knight said. “I told (the players), ‘Unfortunately, you’re making me have this conversation every round, it seems like,’ I know they’ll be back ready to play tomorrow.”

The Bobcats are in good shape pitching-wise, but the junior submarine pitcher, Stogner, is unavailable for Game 2. Hunter Barrett, sophomore Kros Sivley and senior Billy Garrity are all options for Game 2.

“We’re in good shape (Friday), then of course if we get to Saturday, we feel good about it,” Knight said. “Of course, we have to make it go three. If we make it go three, I like our chances.”

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