Tupelo’s Jackson Bridges had the final say in a classic pitchers’ duel in Game 1 of the Class 6A state title series.
Bridges, a senior right-hander, came up with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to hand the Golden Wave a 2-1 win over Gulfport on Wednesday night at Trustmark Park.
Gulfport has managed to win tight ball games all season, but the Admirals failed to push across a run in the eighth though they had two men on and none out.
Gulfport looked to stay alive when the two teams meet for Game 2 at 4 p.m. on Thursday at Trustmark Park.
“Not a lot fazes us,” Gulfport coach Jamie McMahon said. “We just kind of flushed it (after the Game 2 loss to Oak Grove during South State). In this situation, you’ve got to flush it. You’ve got to come out and be ready to go again tomorrow. We’ll see how we react.”
Bridges and Gulfport junior right-hander Patrick Nelms went back and forth on the pitcher’s mound all night, overcoming adversity at times and leading the way for their teams at the plate.
Bridges finished 2-for-4 with an RBI and Nelms was the only Admiral with multiple hits, going 2-for-3.
Nelms was outstanding for Gulfport, not giving up an earned run through the first seven innings.
He finally began to show signs of tiring in the top of the eighth when he hit LaBryant Siddell to lead off the inning. Siddell moved over to second when Gulfport catcher Blake Johnson’s throw to first hit short of the bag on a pickoff attempt.
Charlie Greer followed with a sacrifice bunt and Johnson failed to get Siddell when he advanced to third. Tupelo designated hitter Stephen Matthews was intentionally walked to load the bases, setting the stage for Bridges to lift a drive off Gulfport reliever Castor Lee to deep center, bringing home Siddell for the winning run.
Tupelo players mobbed Bridges in shallow left field to celebrate the win.
“(Bridges) was a bulldog tonight,” McMahon said. “He went at us. He made some pitches when he needed to make them.”
Bridges retired the first two batters he faced to begin the game, but allowed three consecutive Admirals to reach with two outs in the top of the first. Gabe Lacy walked, Johnson had an infield single and Ethan Saucier followed with an RBI single to right to allow Lacy to score and give the Admirals a 1-0 lead before Tupelo had a chance to bat.
Bridges (10-3) allowed the first two men to reach in the second, but settled in to allow only one hit in his final five innings. He allowed one run on four hits, striking out five and walking four.
“He competed, got himself out of a couple of jams,” Tupelo coach Justin Reed said. “He’s a guy that’s started off sort of good, but he always got stronger as the game went on. He continued to do that tonight.”
Tupelo tied the game at 1-1 with two out in the fifth when Josh Smith sent a grounder up the middle that Lacy, the shortstop, managed to field, but his throw to first was late and high, going over first baseman Max Barnes’ glove. The errant toss allowed Gatlin Farrar to score from second.
Nelms (7-3) allowed one earned run on six hits in seven innings, striking out four and walking three.
“Nelms was really good tonight,” McMahon said. “You have to give a lot of credit to him because he came out with his A game tonight.”
Gulfport will go with Johnson on the pitcher’s mound Thursday while Tupelo (25-9) will answer with Greer, who is 6-3 with a 1.04 ERA.
“We’ve just got to get ready for tomorrow,” Nelms said. “We’re going to win it.”