SP Baseball

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 22, 2011

South Panola’s first baseman John Wesley Willis also had the tag on the Starkville runner Tuesday, but his hand touched the base a split-second before Willis tagged him. South Panola rallied from a 13-6 deficit for the 14-13 district win. The Panolian photo by Glennie Pou

Tigers come from behind to win 14-13

By Brad Greer

First there was “The Miracle on Ice” that involved the United States hockey team in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. Then there was the “Bluegrass Miracle” in 2002 when LSU shocked Kentucky on a last second ‘Hail Mary’ pass.

But what occurred Tuesday will be remembered as “The Miracle on Tiger Drive”

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Trailing 13-6, South Panola scored an amazing eight runs in the bottom of the seventh inning as Tays Hardy drilled a bases-loaded double with two outs to give the Tigers a stunning 14-13 victory over Starkville in the regular season district finale’.

South Panola improved to 17-7 and 5-4 in Region 2-6A play while Starkville finished the season at 9-12, 2-7 in district. The loss was especially hard to swallow for the ‘Jackets who were three outs away from making the playoffs as the third-place finisher.

   Bobby Epps and Hardy got the epic rally started with a pair of singles off Yellowjacket reliever Wesley Montgomery to start the seventh inning. Following Deshon Lindsey’s fielders’ choice that retired pinch-runner Matt Jones for out one, Chance Whitten. J.W Willis and Chris Townsend walked to produce two runs.

Mitchel Babb then greeted reliever Blake Harrell with a single to right that drove in Whitten to make the score 13-9.  After Harrell  fanned Lee Self for out number two, cleanup hitter Andrew Horne slapped another single into right to chase home Townsend. Lee Peeples, the Yellowjackets third pitcher of the inning, then walked Epps to force in a run that set up Hardy’s game-winning hit that scored Babb, Horne and Jones.

“I was 0-for-3 before I got that bloop single in my first at bat in the seventh. The next time up I widened my stance and he (Peeples) threw me a perfect pitch and just went with it. I was looking for a fastball and he got it up a little bit in the zone,” said Hardy of his game-winning hit. “We have come back two games in a row in the last inning and won so we feel pretty good about how we are playing heading into the playoffs,“ said Hardy.

Things started out looking good for the visitors after jumping to a 6-1 lead after two innings as the Jackets chased Tiger starting pitcher Hunter Durham after 1.2 innings. Blake Dawkins’ two-run double in the first and Jaquez Johnson‘s two-run homerun in the second were key hits.

South Panola added a  run in the second on Townsend’s RBI double that drove in Taylor Meek. The Tigers then cut Starkville’s lead to 6-3 on Meek’s solo home run off Yellowjack starter Garrett Batson.

Starkville padded its lead to 10-3 in the fifth on three walks and a two-run double by Daniel Murphree.

The Tigers answered with a run of their own on Babb’s leadoff double and two infield errors. South Panola added two runs in the sixth after two were out  to close the margin to 11-6 on Self’s two-run single.

Whitten, the last of six South Panola pitchers used on the day, picked up his first varsity win on the mound by tossing the seventh inning. Lane Massey, Will Daughtery, Blake Darby and Meek all saw time on the hill.

Babb led the Tigers offensively with a double and two singles while Townsend added a triple and a double.Hardy and Willis followed with a double and single while Meek contributed with a home run and single. Self, Horne and Epps rounded out hits with singles.

Vicksburg will host South Panola Saturday at 1 p.m. in the first game of the best-of-three series. South Panola will host the second game Monday at 4 p.m.