Coaches pleased with baseball Tigers’ season opening outing

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 22, 2016

South Panola’s Mason Wilkerson keeps a Desoto Central player at bay at second while he tries to remain on base. The Panolian photo by Will Dickins

South Panola’s Zach Hopper (left) gets the tag on a Desoto Central batter as he tries to get to first base. The Panolian photo by Will Dickins

Coaches pleased with baseball Tigers’ season opening outing

By Brad Greer
While most baseball coaches have to search for positives after early-season jamborees, South Panola head coach Jake Mills did not have to look hard at the stat sheets to find out where his Tigers stand after Saturday’s four-inning contests at Lake Cormorant in which South Panola fell 8-7 to No. 7 ranked Desoto Central and 9-8 to Cleveland.
“I was extremely pleased with the way we swung the bats in both games. Coach (Hunter) Mize and I were looking at the charts and we graded out at 69 percent quality at bats and our goal was 60 (percent). Going into today I thought we would hit the ball well, but honestly I was surprised we did that good at the plate. In eight innings, we only struck out three times in 55 at-bats so that was good to see. If we can get runners on base, we find ways of scoring,” said Mills.
Desoto Central 8, South Panola 7
South Panola fell behind 2-0 early on to the defending 6A state champions before scratching across four runs in the top of the third.
Chase Durham got the Tigers on the board with a two-out; two-run homerun to left field that brought home Cole Rotenberry who  led off the inning by reaching on a passed ball by the catcher on a swinging third strike.
Following a walk and stolen base by Mason Wilkerson, Zach Hopper delivered a RBI single up the middle to make the score 3-2. Hopper would later score on an error for a 4-2 Tiger lead.
Desoto Central would regain the lead with five runs in the bottom half of inning before South Panola responded with three runs in the fourth to knot the game at 7-7. Rotenberry and Noah Willis highlighted the inning with back-to-back RBI singles. Nathan Herron added a single in the second inning as the Tigers collected five hits in the contest.
The Jaguars ended the game in the bottom half of the fourth as Mont Spann smashed a game-winning triple down the right field line.
Durham worked the first two innings on the mound for the Tigers, striking out three on four hits while Wilkerson followed with one inning before Luke Daniels tossed 1/3 of an inning in the fourth.
Cleveland 9, South Panola 8
South Panola’s bats stayed hot on a windy day by collecting nine hits. Cole Rotenberry, Willis and Wilkerson all registered two hits each while Herron and James Kyle Browning supplied RBI doubles. Hopper added an infield single that produced a run.
South Panola jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first as Rotenberry led off with a solo home run  before Jacob Fennell, Durham and Wilkerson scored runs. Cleveland exploded for eight runs on four hits in the second to take an 8-4 advantage before the Tigers scrapped across a run in the second for an 8-5 Wildcat lead.
The Tigers closed the margin to 9-7 in the bottom of the fourth when Wilkerson singled and later scored on an error. South Panola had the tying run on third with two outs when Zach Linkous robbed Chris Casiday with a diving catch to end the game.
Turner Rotenberry started the game on the hill and went 1.1 innings with Ryan McCurdy going .2 innings. Anderson Wilder fanned four in two innings while giving up one hit and one unearned run.
“I was pleased with our pitching performance as a whole today. I do think we need to pound the zone harder on some pitches. Chase was solid as usual. Anderson Wilder threw the ball well and Luke Daniels got some work in as well. There was a few plays we could have made but didn’t and hurt us. Take away a couple of plays and we might have won both of the games, but that is what these games are for is to get better and prepare for the regular season,” said Mills.
 South Panola will open the season Saturday in the Senatobia Classic by taking on the host Warriors at 11:00 a.m followed by Lake Cormorant at 2 p.m.The Tigers will then travel to Cleveland Monday for a 5 and 7 p.m contest with the Wildcats.

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