BELDEN – Tupelo Christian didn’t let a late Smithville rally ruin its plans of forcing a third game in their Class 1A state semifinals series on Saturday night.
The Eagles (23-11) took an early 2-0 lead, saw the Noles come back to tie it up, but eventually grabbed the 3-2 win on a walkoff RBI single by Easton Hood.
Game 3 is today at 3 p.m. at Smithville.
“It’s the benefit of being at home and getting the last at bat,” TCPS coach Will Lowrey said. “We don’t take that lightly at all. You have to credit both pitchers because it was a well-played game tonight. We’re still playing and still having fun.”
TCPS grabbed the 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first on an error on infield single by Kamryn Randolph, an error on a bunt by Cade Hall and a sac fly by John Mark Jolly.
Jolly was the star on the mound for the Eagles as he kept Smithville (24-4) off the board until the sixth inning.
Twice, the Noles stranded the bases loaded against Jolly, who struck out 10 and scattered five hits, but eventually took a no decision.
“I originally said he was out after the sixth, but he asked for the ball back,” Lowrey said of his senior pitcher.
Smithville tied the game in the sixth when Peyton Blair led off with a double and a walk to Aubrey Cox and an infield single to Dustin Moffett loaded the bases. Heath Noe brought home the run with an infield single to second base, and Stuart Coggins drew a bases-loaded walk.
The Eagles stayed off the board for five innings, thanks to a combined effort on the mound by Blayde Scott and Noe, but came through in the bottom of the seventh.
Randolph led off with his third hit of the game, a bunt single, and with two outs, Jolly was intentionally walked. Hood came through with the game-winning hit into right field.
Hall picked up the win in relief for the Eagles.
“We had opportunities but couldn’t take advantage of them,” Smithville coach Jamie Russell said. “In the North state championship, this is the kind of game you’re going to get.”