HATTIESBURG -- The bottom of the lineup came to the rescue for Hattiesburg on Thursday night as it claimed a 2-1 win over Pearl River Central in Game 1 of the Class 5A South State baseball finals.
Hattiesburg (25-7) is still undefeated in the postseason going into Game 2 at 7 p.m. Friday at PRC (23-10).
Hattiesburg’s nine-hole hitter, A.J. Stinson tied the game at 1-1 in the second inning with a two-out RBI single. In the fourth, eight-hole hitter Devin Lang’s RBI single with two outs proved to be the decisive blow.
On a Hattiesburg team known for a talented middle of the lineup featuring super sophomore Joe Gray, it was the lesser known Tigers who came through.
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“The bottom of the lineup really came through tonight, more so than the top,” Hattiesburg coach Joe Hartfield said. “Our top is pretty good, but they didn’t do that well tonight. I’m proud of those guys.”
PRC sophomore right-hander Rigell Robinson put in another strong postseason performance on the mound, but it wasn’t quite enough. He threw all seven innings, giving up one earned run on four hits. He struck out three and walked only one.
Robinson said his curveball was again his go-to pitch Thursday.
“I also had a little two-seam that was cutting arm side early,” Robinson said. “It was looking pretty good. Later, I kind of lost it. I had to go more four-seam. It stuck around most of the game.”
PRC coach Neil Walther got all he could have expected out of Robinson.
“If you had told me that we’d hold them to two runs, I would felt real good about our chances to win the game,” Walther said. “The pitching has been there all playoffs. Sometimes, our defense and bats have disappeared. I expect our pitching to be there again (Friday) night.”
PRC jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Anthony Hickman had a one-out walk, Jeshua Lee followed with a single and Nick Newman brought Hickman home on another single.
PRC finished with only five hits in the game, including a one-out single by Caleb Tynes with one out in the seventh inning. Hattiesburg pitcher Dexter Jordan retired the final two batters to preserve the 2-1 win.
Jordan (9-1) recovered from a bumpy start in the first inning to pick up the victory.
“Dex is our bulldog. He always gives us a shot to win,” Hartfield said. “His strength is throwing strikes. The first guy he walked ended up scoring. After that, he did the most important thing in baseball and that’s throwing strikes.”
Walther believes his hitters didn’t have the right mindset at the plate Thursday night.
“Offensively, I think it was more of an approach thing,” Walther said. “If we have a little better approach, we could have got some things going. It wasn’t overpowering stuff. The kid did a good job of mixing things up. He was throwing two pitches for strikes and we got a lot of soft contact.
“We’ll have to do a better job as far as our approach. If we get that same type of pitching performance, I like our chances in game two.”
Neither coach was ready to commit to a starting pitcher for Game 2, but Hartfield acknowledged that Gray (5-0, 2.81) is an option. Walther was leaning toward junior right-hander Cade Lee (5-3, 1.72).