HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Just when it seemed that Biloxi High School had seized the momentum in the top of the seventh inning Friday, Oak Grove High School turned around in the bottom of the inning and seized a victory in the first game of the Class 6A baseball playoff series.
After Tucker Thomas' solo home run with one out in the top of the seventh inning pulled the Indians even, Brennen Roberts' two-out single up the middle in the bottom of the inning gave the Warriors a walk-off, 5-4 win at Harry Breland Field.
"It was just like I expected, just like they expected, anytime you get these deep in the playoffs and you've got two good teams battling it out," Oak Grove coach Chris McCardle said. "We got a big hit, and hey, that's all you need. That's what it's all about. Playoff baseball at its finest."
The teams square off at 7 p.m. Saturday in Biloxi for the second game in the best-of-three series.
"They're a great team, hats off to them," Biloxi coach Eddie Lofton said. "But I don't think they are any better than us. They were just better (Friday night)."
Biloxi went up 1-0 in the second inning when pitcher Trey Shaffer took Oak Grove starting pitcher Payton Harris over the center-field wall for his fourth home run of season.
But in the bottom of the inning, the Warriors (27-4) roughed up Shaffer, who contributed to his own woes by hitting two batters and walking another.
Kade Shannon walked and Nathan Dearman's sacrifice bunt turned into an infield single when he beat the throw to first. Shaffer cut down the lead runner at third base on another sacrifice attempt, but then hit Rhett Blackburn to load the bases.
After a strikeout for the second out, Shaffer hit Mack Pickering to force in a run and tie the game 1-1. Drew Boyd followed with a two-run single to score Roberts and Blackburn to give Oak Grove a 3-1 lead before Hayes Maples' run-scoring single left the Warriors ahead 4-1.
"We had the one, real bad inning," Lofton said, "when we gave up the (three) free bases with the walk and two hit batters, and that's pretty uncharacteristic of us and our pitchers.
"So, that's the big difference in the game …We give up those (three) free bases, but now they got some big hits, too. They got two hits that inning (Boyd's and Maples') and the big hit there at the end. Hats off to them. They got the key hits in the key situations."
The Indians (22-9) began pecking away. Shaffer tripled with one out in the fourth inning and scored on Nick Skaggs' grounder to the right side to cut the lead to 4-2.
Biloxi added another run in the fifth inning on a RBI-double by Jacob Collier, but left the bases loaded when Kris Smith (5-0) relieved Harris and got Shaffer on a ground out to end the threat.
Shaffer, who allowed six hits in five innings with five walks and six strikeouts, was keeping Oak Grove off the board. The Warriors left the bases loaded in the third inning and stranded men on first and second in the fifth inning.
"(Shaffer) was really good," McCardle said. "We had some chances early in the game when we should have scored some more, but we let him kind of settle in, and he did a good job against us."
With Shaffer at the pitch limit, Biloxi left-hander Austin Wilson (2-1) entered and worked around a sixth-inning single to keep Oak Grove's lead at a run.
Thomas took care of that in the top of the seventh, launching his fifth homer of the season to left field to tie the score with one out. But Smith rebounded, getting a flyout and strikeout to end the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, pinch-hitter Steve McMurrian coaxed a walk from Wilson to lead off the inning.
Pinch runner Hayden Sikes moved to second on an infield chopper, and with two outs, Roberts sent a curveball back up the middle on the first pitch he saw from Wilson.
"I was looking fastball," Roberts said. "I was looking for a pitch to drive and score the man from second.
"We've overcome adversity this season. There's been a couple times this year where we lost the lead in the seventh, but (Friday), it was a different outcome. I'm glad we got the win."