Oak Grove High School baseball coach Chris McCardle said he had every intention of not bringing a long-idled Drew Boyd into a two-on, one-out situation in the top of the seventh inning Saturday night and his Warriors holding a one-run lead.
His players changed his mind.
“He’s had a six-week layoff, so it’s been eight weeks (since Boyd last pitched), but the competitor he is, he’s been pounding me,” McCardle said of his pitching ace who had been sidelined from the mound with arm issues. “I’ll be honest with you, when I went out to the mound, I was going to bring in Kris Smith, and I like got attacked by the whole team, so, there was nothing I could do.
“I told (Boyd), ‘You got two batters, two or three batters.’”
Boyd needed just one and three pitches, getting a ground ball to third baseman Brennen Roberts, who stepped on third base for the force and then threw to first base to complete a game-ending double play that locked down the Warriors’ 3-2 victory over Gulfport High School.
The victory at Harry Breland Field tied the Class 6A South State title series at a game apiece. The rubber match of the best-of-three series is set for 7 p.m. Monday at Gulfport.
“When you’ve got two good teams for South State, it’s what it’s going to come down to, a third game,” Gulfport coach Jamie McMahon said. “It’s what I figured, with their record and our record, the way we play, the way they play.”
After the Admirals (31-5) had rallied in the sixth inning to take a 7-3 win in Gulfport Thursday night, the Warriors (29-5) turned the tables Saturday.
Gulfport had taken a 2-0 lead in the second inning off Oak Grove starter Jordan Coursey (8-1), scoring once on a passed ball and the second on a single by Dillon Brown.
But Coursey was stingy allowing just two hits on the night, none after the second.
Gulfport starter Patrick Nelms (7-2) allowed more hits, but had kept Oak Grove off the scoreboard until Rhett Blackburn launched his first home run of the season over the left-field fence in the bottom of the fifth inning to pull the Warriors within 2-1.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Boyd launched a long fly to center field with one out that kept carrying, clearing the wall and tying the game 2-2.
Hayes Maples coaxed a walk and pinch-runner Cody Palmer moved to second base when a snap throw from the catcher sailed down the right-field line.
Kade Shannon then smacked a double to center field, but Palmer was out at the plate after a perfect relay.
That brought up Kris Jones, who had been dropped from leadoff to sixth in the order, and on a 2-2 count, he lofted his own double into the left-center gap to score pinch runner Hayden Sikes with the go-ahead run.
McCardle said Jones had been shifted to provide some punch lower in the batting order.
“A lot of our middle guys had been getting on base in the middle of the order, Drew and Maples, and we were having problems getting them in because the pitching is so good in the playoffs,” McCardle said. “So, I talked to Kris (Friday) and said, ‘Look, I need to free you up to be a RBI guy.’”
Coursey came out for the seventh, and got the first out, but then hit the next two batters with pitches.
That brought Boyd from first base to the mound.
“It worked out, man,” McCardle said. “South State baseball at its finest. Two good teams battling it out, back and forth.”