Blake Johnson struck out nine batters to help Gulfport hold on to a 3-2 win Tuesday in high school baseball.
The two rivals will meet again Friday at Gulfport with the first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Admirals (16-1, 4-1) scored all three of their runs in the first inning, with two runs coming off gifts from Biloxi (12-6, 2-3). Dillon Brown, Castor Lee and Gabe Lacy led off the Gulfport first with consecutive singles, loading the bases. However, Johnson flied out to right for the first out. Ethan Saucier followed with a grounder to first. Although Brown scored to give the Admirals a 1-0 lead, Gulfport was down to their last out of the inning.
Biloxi starter Steven Vanderlei struck out Dylan Ladner, but the third strike eluded the catcher, allowing Ladner to reach and Lee to score. Beckett White followed with a grounder to third, but the throw was over the first baseman’s head, allowing Lacy to score to give the Admirals a 3-0 lead.
“We are still leaving too many guys on base,” Gulfport coach Jamie McMahon said. “Without those misplays, I don’t know if we score.”
“We had too many key mistakes,” Biloxi coach Eddie Lofton said. “When you are playing big games, you can’t make those kind of mistakes. Good teams like Gulfport take advantage of those mistakes. We should have gotten out of the first with only one run being scored.”
However, after the Admirals pushed their three runs across the plate, Vanderlei settled down. Although he would give up another eight hits, Gulfport wasn’t able to score, partly because he didn’t walk a batter.
“He pitched a really good game,” Lofton said. “He gave up a lot of hits, but a lot of them were soft hits.”
McMahon, on the other hand, was left trying to figure out why Gulfport was having trouble scoring runs, a problem that has plagued the Admirals all year long. Against Biloxi, Gulfport left eight runners on base, with four in scoring position.
“We are hitting the ball well,” he said. “We are just not hitting the ball well with runners in scoring position.”
Nevertheless, Gulfport still has only one loss on the season.
“Everything else is clicking,” McMahon said. “We are pitching well and we don’t give runs away.”
Gulfport got hits from every position in the lineup with Jacob Roberts, batting for Rhodes Walker, getting an infield single to short to complete the feat. Despite the game’s 11 hits, only Brown and Saucier had multiple hits for Gulfport, two each.
With Gulfport not able to push additional runners across the plate, Biloxi mounted its comeback starting in the bottom of the first. Two walks, a hit batsman, and an error allowed the Indians to score their first run. However, Biloxi left the bases full in the first.
In the third, Gabe Garza hit a solo homerun over the left-field fence to cut the Gulfport lead to 3-2. However, against Johnson, who struck out every Biloxi starter except Tucker Thomas, the Indians couldn’t get any closer, leaving five runners on base over the last four innings.
In the Biloxi seventh, Tucker reached on an one-out infield single to first and Garza walked with two outs. But Roberts, pitching the seventh in relief of Johnson, got out of the jam inducing a grounder to short for the third out.
“We couldn’t get the key hit when we needed it,” Lofton said.
Garza and Tucker led Biloxi at the plate. Garza had a homer, a walk and a hit batter in four trips to the plate. Thomas walked, singled, was hit by a pitch and stole two bases.