The Pontotoc Red Sox American Legion and the South Pontotoc Stix travel team were set to face off in the semifinal round of the King City Classic last weekend, but the threat of bad weather forced officials to cancel play.
Tourney organizers announced via Twitter early Sunday that the day’s scheduled games were scratched, including the semifinal and final matchups. The Stix and the Sox won three games each in the preliminary rounds. Games in the Classic were played at Tupelo High School, Northeast Mississippi Community College, and Itawamba Community College.
On Friday at the ICC Indians’ field in Fulton, the Stix scuffled past a game squad from Huntsville Legion Post 237, 2-1. The Stix came out on top of Pool D in the King City tourney, competing against teams from Panola County, as well as from Huntsville, Ala., and Texarkana, Ark.
Pontotoc’s Jon Robert Carnes started on the hill for the Stix, and he fanned a pair of Huntsville hitters to get out of the bottom of the first unscathed. In the top of the second, Huntsville shortstop Caleb Priest made a nifty scoop and fired across to first on the run for the second out. Centerfielder Corey Edwards ran down a deep fly to get Huntsville out of the frame.
Calhoun City’s Jackson Lee singled to left in the bottom of the third with two on and two out, off Huntsville left-handed starter Corey Hagood. That plated Ripley’s Ty Long for a 1-0 lead. In the bottom of the third, South Pontotoc’s Jackson Rodgers made a nice play in right-field, running down a popup in foul ground for an out. Carnes bookended that play with a pair of Ks to get through the frame safely.
Carnes cracked a solid double to left-center in the top of the fourth, but the Stix failed to score. Huntsville’s only run came in the bottom of the frame, as Priest drew a two-out walk followed by an RBI double to left from Edwards.
Carnes ran into trouble in the bottom of the fifth, surrendering a leadoff single to Huntsville’s Wilhide for the post’s first hit of the game. Cowan beat out an infield hit, then Burton bunted the runners over with a sacrifice. North Pontotoc’s Reece Kentner came on in relief for the Stix with runners at second and third and one out. He walked the first batter to load the bases, then got a popup and a strikeout to squelch the Huntsville threat. Chipper Moore from Calhoun City drove in the Stix’s go-head run. The Stix hung on for the win.
Jackson Lee went 2-3 at the plate to lead the Stix. Carnes pitched 4 1/3 innings, surrendering 1 run on 3 hits and fanning 6. Kentner got the win, pitching 2 2/3, giving up no hits and notching 2 Ks.
On Friday, June 9, also at ICC’s field, the Stix defeated the team from Texakana, 8-3. Ripley’s Ty Long got the win, pitching 4-plus innings, and surrendering 2 runs on 3 hits and striking out 7. South Pontotoc’s Hunter Bagwell got the save, surrendering 1 run on 2 hits and fanning 1 in 1 inning pitched. Bagwell and his Cougar teammate, Jackson Rodgers, each had a pair of hits and a pair of RBIs in the win.
On Thursday, July 8, playing at Tupelo High School’s baseball field, the Stix defeated the Panola Pirates 5-4. Hunter Bagwell went 2-3 with 3 stolen bases and 2 runs scored. Jon Robert Carnes went 2-3 with a double and 1 run scored. Cooper Davis from Ripley added a double and scored a run. Colton Foster got the win on the mound, allowing just 1 hit and striking out 4 in 3 innings pitched.
The Stix improved to 7-0 overall on the season. In late June they notched previous wins over Junior Legion teams from Baldwyn, Tupelo, Tuscaloosa, the North Mississippi Indians, and Amory.
Coach Terry Bagwell, a South Pontotoc alum, skippers the Stix along with Coach Witt Long, from Ripley. Bagwell said he was encouraged by his team’s effort.
“Overall, we were well pleased with the way they competed against some really good teams,” said Bagwell. “We came out a little flat to start the first game (against Texarkana), but we finally got rolling. It’s not always pretty, but we thought our guys did a good job competing in the box, and our pitchers kept us in the game. Our defense played excellently, and that will win you a lot of games. We were really disappointed that we didn’t get to play (Sunday) against a solid Pontotoc team. It would have been entertaining, with players from North, South, and Ripley on both teams. This is a special group of guys. Each has a great baseball IQ, and a great foundation for the game. Coach Witt and I have said it before each game, that these guys coach themselves. We just get to be around.”
As a footnote, seven of the players on the Stix’s roster will compete against each other at their respective schools in division play in the spring of 2022.
The Pontotoc Red Sox, skippered for five decades by Coach Nickey Browning, won out in Pool C of the King City tourney. That pool included teams from Russellville, Ark., and Troy, Al., as well as the North Mississippi Indians, a team also suiting up several players form the Pontotoc area.
The PoSox, fresh off a pair of road wins over Columbia, Tenn., and Mayfield Ky., as well as a walk-off win by way of a homer from Ripley’s Hayden Fortune verses Hattiesburg, advanced to the semis with a 7-3 win over Russellville, played at Northeast CC on Saturday. Starting pitcher Dre McCray of Water Valley cruised through the top of the first inning for the Sox, helped by a pair of unassisted putouts by first-baseman Hastings Gibson from East Webster.
The Sox needed only two hits to plate six runs in the bottom of the frame, helped by errors and walks. Pontotoc got on the board when North Pontotoc’s Ty Roberson was hit by a pitch from Russellville lefty starter Cole Hathcote, an Arkansas Tech University player, and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch. South Pontotoc’s Channing Lackey reached on a walk and eventually scored on a wild pitch. East Union’s Jude Treadaway nailed an RBI single, plating Ripley’s Hayden Fortune, who also drew a walk, for a 3-0 Red Sox lead.
Gibson drove in Treadaway with a roll out to second for the fourth Red Sox run. East Union’s Hayden Roberts reached on a walk and came around to score, and that chased Hathcote. Russellville’s Todd Pitts took the hill in relief. Water Valley’s Dre McCray nailed an RBI single to right to give the Sox a comfortable 6-0 lead.
McCray was dominant on the mound as well. He pitched 4 1/3 innings, surrendering 3 runs and scattering 4 hits.
Russellville’s first hit and first run came with one out in the top of the third with a solo homer by Brandon Bunton, also an Arkansas Tech player. McCray escaped the inning with minimal damage, freezing a Russellville hitter with a curveball for a strikeout followed by a nifty snag and strong throw across the diamond by Channing Lackey at third base.
Lance Millsaps and Stevens notched RBIs for Russellville. Millsaps has an extraordinary story. Check it out at https://www.thv11.com/article/sports/dover-junior-baseball-heart-transplant.
The Sox reached the semis by defeating the Indians 7-6 on Thursday, and Troy 5-1 on Friday. Lafayette County’s Blake Loper pitched a dominant performance for the Red Sox verses Troy. He pitched a complete, seven-inning game, surrendering only 1 run on 2 hits and fanning 5.
Red Sox Coach Nickey Browning said he liked what he saw from his team. He would have liked to play the Stix as well, he said.
“The Stix have a great team with some young players that are just going to get better in the coming years,” said Browning. “I thought we played really well this past weekend. I was proud of our guys winning the pool. Our pitchers stepped up and threw the ball well and we got key hits when we needed them. We’re going to be our best when we have our whole team together.”
The Red Sox, Stix, and Indians are gearing up for the American Legion Tournament, to be held July 23-25 at Tupelo High School’s field.