SPRINGVILLE - First times can be scary.
Both South Pontotoc and Seminary were making their first appearances Tuesday in the Class 2A best-of-three state championship series. But the Bulldogs (23-6) from the south overcame the first-time jitters to cruise by South Pontotoc (29-9) 15-4.
Things started with a wild first inning that saw Seminary send eight men to the plate while scoring four runs followed by South Pontotoc having nine batters and three runs.
From there it was all Seminary. The Bulldogs scored four runs each in the fifth and seventh innings while pounding out 11 hits. Seminary pitcher Brad McKissack struck out 11 South Pontotoc batters and only gave up one hit after the first inning.
"I don't know if it was nerves," said South Pontotoc coach Steve Lyles, whose team has been in the playoffs five straight years but never advanced this far. "We had some sophomores drop some balls, but Seminary hit it well. That is the best pitcher we have faced."
Seminary coach Randy Lott said his squad might have been more nervous last week getting to the championship.
"Things started to happen for us and everyone relaxed," Lott said.
Seminary began rolling in the first scoring four runs with the help of two South Pontotoc errors.
The bases were loaded with no outs when Seminary third baseman Adam Wade sinlged home Steven Taormia. When the Cougars finally got an out on a strikeout there was a passed ball which resulted in another Bulldog run.
South Pontotoc second baseman Will Holton made a error on a pop-up which allowed Kenny Williamson of Seminary to touch the plate. The Cougars where down 4-0 after a fielder's choice brought in Wade.
It didn't take long for South Pontotoc to strike back. In the bottom of the first, Cougar Jason Caldwell ripped a double off the left field fence on one hop to score Grant Stegall and Sonny Holcomb. Holton walked with the bases full to score Caldwell and make the score 4-3 Seminary after one inning. Things settled down after the furious start as neither team scored in the next two innings.
Then in the fourth Taormia smacked a home run to right field for a 5-3 Seminary advantage.
Holcomb, the ace of South Pontotoc's staff, had to be taken out after giving up two singles on two pitches in the sixth inning.
"He is a little tired," Lyles said. "But he got us here so we are going to keep riding him. If he wants the ball we will give it to him."
South Pontotoc used two other pitchers, Tim Tackett and Shane Rowe, but neither could put an end to the Seminary scoring spree.
"We have hit the ball well all year, and we did it again," said Lott, whose team is hitting .375 this season.
South Pontotoc must now sweep two games at Seminary,with the first one set to start at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"We are still alive," Lyles said. "We didn't hit the ball today, but we have got another chance."
Seminary 400 142 4 - 15 11 1
South Pontotoc 300 001 0 - 4 4 6
WP - Brad McKissack (5-2). LP - Sonny Holcomb (14-2). Multiple Hits: (Se) Steven Taormia 3, Kenny Williamson 2, Christopher Folkes 2, (SP) Grant Stegall 2; 2B - (Se) Kenny Williamson, (SP) Jason Caldwell, Stegall; HR- (Se) Taormia. Records: Seminary 24-6, South Pontotoc 29-9.
Notes: The series now shifts to Seminary Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. South Pontotoc's Grant Stegall doubled in the Cougars last run in the sixth to score Chance Austin.