The Tupelo 49ers are hauling some big lumber to Pelham, Alabama, this week.
Tupelo enters the American Legion Mid-South Regional with an offense that’s gone into beast mode. Those bats swill be swinging Wednesday when the 49ers face Pittsburg (Kan.) in the first round at 1 p.m.
During a five-game sweep through the state tournament, Tupelo (32-1) averaged 15 runs per game, batting .462 as a team, with 22 extra-base hits.
“It’s hard to say you’re peaking because I don’t necessarily know that we’ve seen the high-end quality pitching depth that this next tournament will provide,” coach McKinley Holland said. “Naturally, as the competition gets tougher, I don’t envision us scoring 15 runs a game this week. But I do feel confident that our offense will rise to the occasion of whatever is presented to them.”
The hits came from throughout the lineup. Evan McCarthy was particularly productive, going 10 of 17 with two doubles, a home run and nine RBIs in the tournament.
Davis Oswalt was 8 of 13 and also drove in nine runs.
For the season, Jackson McCoy continues to lead the way with a .557 average, followed by Oswalt at .511 and Noah Foster at .469.
“One through nine, we feel comfortable with anybody we stick in there,” Holland said. “Depending on our own pitching matchups, there are different guys that slide to different spots. We’re really comfortable with our offense right now, for sure.”
Pittsburg (16-10-1) will counter with a solid pitching staff, which has a collective 3.84 ERA. Hunter Bennett sports a 1.24 ERA with 30 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings. He tossed a two-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts against Leavenworth in the state tournament.
Given how hot their bats are, it can be easy to forget that the 49ers are strong on the mound as well. J.W. Armistead (7-0, 1.42 ERA), Jacobie Smith (4-0, 1.68) and Taylor Ballard (5-0, 2.22) are three of the arms Tupelo will lean on as it tries to repeat as regional champion.
“The one thing that is a little bit different, last year we had to manufacture runs a little bit more,” said Holland. “But this year our guys have been given good cushions, so it allows them to go out there and just throw strikes and let the defense play behind them.
"It’s one thing that we tell them before just about every game: If we throw strikes and don’t swing at balls, then we really like our chances against whoever we play.”