For the better part of five innings Friday night, St. Martin starter Dakoda Groue baffled Biloxi’s bats, allowing just three baserunners through four innings. Then the fifth inning happened. Biloxi used aggressive baserunning to plate all five of its runs in the frame to claim Game 1, 5-1.
Game 2 of the best-of-three MHSAA Class 6A playoff series is at 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Martin. The series winner advances to play Pearl, which earned a first-round bye.
Brodie King led off the fifth inning Friday with a smash off St. Martin’s third baseman before being sacrificed to second on a bunt. King then stole third without a throw on a faked a bunt.
Following Connor Platt’s walk, things got interesting.
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Platt took off for second on a delayed double steal and made it a couple of strides from the bag before doubling back. As St. Martin chased Platt back to first base, King dashed home. The throw home beat Biloxi’s left fielder, but St. Martin’s catcher appeared to miss the tag. King’s momentum took him past the plate, but he was still able to dive back and touch home to tie the game 1-1. Platt ended up at second on the play.
“I had a little football move on him right there,” said King, who is also the Gridiron Indians’ quarterback. “I did whatever I could to score for my team.”
Following a Tucker Thomas double, Jacob Collier stroked a low single through the right side of the drawn-in infield to score two more Indians. Collier later came around to score on a botched pick off attempt. A double by BHS southpaw Trey Shaffer plated the game’s final run.
“I knew if we ever got something going they would loosen up and something good would happen — and it did,” BHS coach Eddie Lofton said.
Leading the way
Shaffer worked six strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings to earn the win. Austin Wilson recorded the final two outs to earn the save.
“That wasn’t one of (Shaffer’s) top nights, but that’s the great thing about him. When he’s not on, he’s still good enough where he’s going to compete and may give up a run or two but that’s about it,” Lofton said. “All year that’s been his forte. He hasn’t given up big innings. He has great composure on the mound. If he gives up one or two hits he’s right back in the zone.”
St. Martin (15-11) jumped on the Indians (19-8) in the first inning when Nick Vollmuth scorched a ball off of Biloxi’s third baseman, allowing courtesy runner Beaux Killeen to score.
The Yellow Jackets ended up with baserunners in six innings — including the potential tying run at the plate in the seventh — but were unable to push across another run.
“We missed some opportunities, but give Trey credit. He made pitches,” St. Martin coach Kary Bridges said. “We had some balls we squared up that went at some folks.”
Groue did well for the Yellow Jackets. The right-hander kept the Indians off balance for much of his 4 2/3 innings and finished with three strikeouts.
“He pitched well. It’s what he has done all year, kept us in games and given us a chance to win,” Bridges said. “He has a good curveball and some real good tilt on his fastball that gets a lot of ground balls. He did it again tonight.”
First time, long time
The last time the Yellow Jackets made the postseason was 2012. Bridges acknowledged his team’s inexperience in the post-season may have shown at times Friday.
“I don’t want to talk tonight about what we did wrong, because a lot of it was they pitched well, played well and made the plays,” he said. “I think some of it was we had some first-time-in-the-playoff jitters when things got away from us. That’s understandable. It’s over with now. We have played a playoff game now.
“Tomorrow we can’t have that.”