HED:W. Rankin eliminates Braves
By D.E. Wheeler
IUKA - Guts can take you a long way in sports. Guts had taken the Tishomingo County Braves to the semifinals of the Class 4A state baseball playoffs.
On Tuesday, needing a win to force a deciding Game 3 against the Northwest Rankin Cougars, guts took the Braves through six innings. But the Cougars' bats won out in the top of the seventh, as Northwest Rankin scored five times to squeeze out a 14-9 win and a series sweep of Tishomingo County.
"We don't have the greatest talent, but we've got guts," Tishomingo County coach Jerry Long said. "We came to play today, and we didn't come to play Saturday.
"But they came to play today, too, and it ended up they scored more runs than we did."
The Cougars (33-4) scored four runs in the top of the sixth inning to take a 9-6 lead over the Braves (32-5). But Tishomingo was able to gut out three runs to tie the game at 9-9 in the bottom half of the inning.
Derick Dexter led off the inning with a walk, then following an out, Rickey Lambert walked. The Cougars brought in Matt Miller, who was greeted by Jon Tapp with a double to left that scored one run.
That was the only batter for Miller, who was replaced by Cougar ace and Game 1 winner Brian Owens (14-0). Owens managed to strike out David Webb, but the pitch was in the dirt.
One run scored as the ball went to the backstop, and a second scored as the Cougars' catcher made a wild throw after retrieving the ball, tying the game at 9-9.
"I thought that if we could continue swinging the bats like we did in the sixth, I felt that we could get one run," Northwest Rankin coach Jeff McClaskey said. "If we got that one run, no one would score on Owens.
"I had waited as long as I could to throw him today."
Northwest Rankin got that one run and more off Tishomingo starter Lambert, who had gutted out the six previous innings, allowing 10 hits. After two one-out hits, Matt Lodes' bunt gave the Cougars their first run of the inning for a 10-9 lead.
The Cougars followed that with a solid single and double that plated two more runs. Then Danny Ott ended Lambert's day and his Tishomingo County career with a home run to left-center for the final runs of the game.
"We don't face pitchers like Lambert in the Jackson area," McClaskey said of the Tishomingo ace. "It was a big adjustment for us, but we were able to hit the ball hard the last four innings."
"That's my horse, and I ride the horse that brung you, always have," Long said about leaving Lambert in as long as he did. "Lambert and (Blake) Holly are two good pitchers, and I have two good young pitchers, but they don't have the experience.
"Give them credit, they hit the ball and we didn't."
The Cougars had scratched out three runs in the first inning, but Tishomingo held a 5-3 lead after the third and a 6-5 margin after the fourth inning. Three different Cougars collected three hits each, while Lambert and Tapp did the same for the Braves.
"We're all greedy and want to win it all," Long said. "For us, not bad for a team that's not supposed to be in the playoffs."