Nanih Waiya took advantage of the opportunities given them by Resurrection, scoring five unearned runs en route to a 6-3 win Thursday in the opening game of the Class 1A South State baseball finals.
The series now moves to Nanih Waiya where the two teams are scheduled to play at 6 p.m. Friday. If Resurrection (22-9) wins Friday, the series will return to Pascagoula Saturday at 7 p.m. However, rain is expected in the Philadelphia area Friday. If the game is rained out Friday, the Warriors (25-2) and Resurrection will meet Saturday at 2 p.m. at Nanih Waiya. The third game, if needed, will be played in Pascagoula Sunday, with a scheduled first pitch at 2 p.m.
“I told my players the goal is not to win one, but two,” said Nanih Waiya coach Tyler Rogers. “Still, to come here and get the first game on the road, it’s huge for us. It’s really big. It’s always good to be able to play at home this deep in the playoffs.”
Rogers said the Warriors wanted to get back to the state title series. The Warriors won the state title in 2011 and 2012 and finished second in 2013. Last year, Nanih Waiya won the first game of the South State series at home only to drop the series 2-1 to Ethel, who Resurrection beat to advance to the South State series this year.
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“The seniors on this team were seventh graders the last time we won it,” Rogers said. “They want to continue the tradition of winning at least one title before they graduate.”
Resurrection Johnny Olsen said the series is far from over as the Eagles prepare to go north for the second game of the season.
“We have to do what we’ve been doing the last few weeks,” he said, noting the Eagles had good nights on the mound and at the plate. “Baseball is simple. You make good plays on defense, get good pitching, and you score on offense when you have a chance. Tonight we didn’t have one of our better defensive efforts.”
Elijah Watts took the hard-luck loss for the Eagles. The only earned run he gave up on the night was a fourth inning solo homerun to Jake Kight that just cleared Resurrection centerfielder Rece Mayer’s glove and the left-center fence, giving the Warriors a 4-3 lead. The homerun pitch came after a close ball call on a Watts curveball.
Nanih Waiya added two insurance runs in the seventh to seal the win. With one out, Coley Taylor singled. Ben Cumberland, who came into the game hitting .481 for the Warriors, slapped a long double into the left-center ally. Resurrection walked Warriors pitcher Brady Jones to load the bases and set up a force at home.
The Eagles strategy appeared to pay off as Bryce Stanton hit a soft liner to short. However, the Eagles shortstop kicked the ball forward, allowing Taylor to beat his throw home. Watts got the second out on a strike out before Tanner Luke singled to center to drive in Cumberland and give Nanih Waiya a three-run cushion, 6-3.
“Those runs allowed us to relax on defense in the bottom of the seventh,” Rogers said, noting that Jones hit Resurrection leadoff batter Ty Tingle to start the bottom of the seventh. “If we would have had only a one-run lead, that would be major because of the player (Tingle) is. With three runs, we could relax a little bit on defense.”
On the board
Resurrection opened the scoring in the bottom of the first when Patrick Newton hit into a fielder’s choice replacing Tingle, who opened the game with a single, at first. Newton stole second and third and scored when the catcher’s attempt at third bounced into left field.
Patrick Lee walked and stole second behind Newton’s steal of third. He scored on Wesley McClain’s double to right-center.
The Warriors used some help by the Eagles in the second to respond. A walk and infield single by Dalton Luke put runners on first and second with two outs. Kight kept the inning alive, beating out a misplay by the Eagles shortstop to load the bases. Chris Smith, batting in the nine hole, followed with a single to center to tie the game at 2-2.
In the third, an error and walk put Warriors runners on first and second. Jones laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third with one out. Stanton followed with a long fly ball to left to score Taylor, who started the inning reaching on an error to third.
“When you get an opportunity to score, you have to take advantage of those situations,” Rogers said.
“There were a couple of plays on defense that we didn’t make and they capitalized on them,” Olsen said, noting the Eagles outscored the Warriors 2-1 in earned runs. “If we make a play or two on defense, we win the ballgame. Watts pitched well enough to get the win.”
Resurrection came back in the bottom of the third. Lee singled and advanced to third on an errant pickoff throw by Jones. Watts followed with a long fly ball to center to plate Lee. It would be the last serious threat Resurrection made against Jones, who allowed only five more baserunners — two on errors — in the game.
In the fourth, Brandon Holliday reached second for Resurrection with one out, but couldn’t make it third. In the sixth, Mayer reached second with two outs, but was left there when Jones induced a grounder back to the mound. Tingle led off the seventh with a hitsbatsman, but was picked off first by Nanih Waiya catcher Luke Dalton.
“(Jones) got stronger as the game went on,” Rogers said. “He really turned it on down the stretch and did what he was supposed to do.”
“You have to hand it to their pitcher,” Olsen agreed. “He got better as the game went on. He did a great job in the late innings.”
Roper Ball was 2-for-4 at the top of the order for the Warriors. Taylor hit into a double play in the first, but responded with a single, walk, and reaching on an error. Jones had two walks and a sacrifice on the night.
Brandon Holliday was 2-for-3 to top Resurrection’s batting charts.