FULTON – After dropping game one of the second round of the class 4A playoffs at Kosciusko last Friday night, the Itawamba AHS Indians bounced back to thump the Whippets at H.D. McGee Field at Fulton City Park on Saturday night, forcing a deciding game three on Monday night back in Attala County.
Coming up on the short end of a 6-4 decision on Friday, in which the Indians outhit the Whippets 11-3, IAHS came out with guns-a-blazing in front of their home crowd on Saturday, crushing Kosciusko 10-0 in five innings.
The Indians routed the Whippets in the hit department again, this time 12-2, but didn’t make the critical defensive errors that cost them on the previous night.
Every Indian in the starting lineup, except one, finished with at least one hit. The only starter to go hitless was Tyler Patterson, but he only finished with one official at-bat, drawing walks in his other two trips.
IAHS started off slowly, but broke through with a five-run third inning.
Thomas Cox led things off with a perfectly-placed drag bunt down the third base line, then Caleb Whittle drove a single back up the middle.
Patterson sacrificed the runners into scoring position, just before Russell Bunch reached on an error when he scorched a shot down the line that was too hot for the third baseman to handle. Cox scored on the play, giving IAHS a 1-0 lead.
Austin King was then hit by a pitch to load the bases, just before Braxton Bennett smoked a line drive down the left field line to score Whittle and Jordan Chatham, who entered as the courtesy runner for Bunch.
Domino singled to left field to load the bases, then Nathan Wilemon grounded into a fielder’s choice that allowed King to score from third and give IAHS a 4-0 lead.
The Indians would come up with one more big hit before the inning was over, when Jake Smith smashed an RBI double to left field that scored Domino from second base.
Aside from a two-out single, the Whippets went quietly in the fourth inning and IAHS tacked on an insurance run in the bottom-half when Bunch doubled on a shot to left field, with two outs, then scored on a triple from King that banged off the left-center field wall.
Leading 6-0, Bunch maintained control on the mound and induced a pop-out to King at third base and a pair of groundouts to Smith at shortstop to get the Whippets in order in the top of the fifth.
IAHS looked to end the game early in the bottom of the fifth, and definitely started out on the right track.
Domino worked a 3-1 count, to lead off the fifth, and then absolutely crushed a fastball over the wall, by the scoreboard in left-center field, for a solo home run that gave the Indians a 7-0 lead.
Wilemon followed with a double to center field and quickly stole third base.
After a couple of quick outs, Whittle smoked a triple over the head of the Kosciusko center fielder to score Wilemon and put the Indians up 8-0.
Patterson then drew a walk and moved to second base, as Whittle scored the ninth Indian run on a wild pitch during Bunch’s at-bat.
With the Whippets reeling and Patterson representing the game-clinching run at second base, Bunch took massive hacks on 3-1 and 3-2 deliveries but fouled them back into the net.
The third cut, however, did not miss when Bunch laced a triple to straight-away left field, allowing Patterson to score easily and send the Whippets back to central Mississippi on the wrong end of an absolute spanking.
The Indians knotted the series up at one game apiece, and traveled to Kosciusko for the pivotal game three on Monday night.
The game finished past deadline, but check out www.djournal.com/itawamba/ later today for a recap.