During the Chicago Cubs’ run to the World Series last year, manager Joe Maddon was famously quoted telling Dexter Fowler “you go, we go.”
Gulfport has a similar player. His name is Dillon Brown.
Jamie McMahon called the center fielder a spark plug for the Admirals and it’s easy to see why. The senior was 3-for-3 Friday with a double, home run and walk as Gulfport rallied from an early deficit to beat Petal 4-2 in the second round opener.
Game 2 is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Petal. Game 3, if needed, will be Monday at Gulfport.
“He gets us going. He’s done it for us all year,” McMahon said of Brown. “We kind of overlook him, but he gets us going on the offensive side. As he goes, we go.”
Trailing 2-0 in the third, Brown split Petal’s lead in half with a leadoff homer over the climbing wall in right-center.
Only his second round-tripper of the season, Brown bolted out of the box.
“When I hit it, I was like, OK, it’s a gapper. I can get two,” he said. “Then I heard everybody and saw (the centerfielder) stop at the wall. Maybe I got lucky.
“I don’t do that everyday. Blessed.”
All tied up
The Admirals looked to draw even later in the inning, but Petal starter Hunter Dykes picked a good time to get his first strikeout of the game to end Gulfport’s threat.
The Admirals came through an inning later, tying the game on a high-arching Rhodes Walker double that barely stayed fair down the left field line. The hit scored Dylan Ladner, who led off the inning with a single through the left side. Gulfport got two more base runners into scoring position in the fourth inning but couldn’t break through.
“Laser jet” show
L.J. Shugart showed in the fifth inning why the game crew nicknamed him “Laser Jet.” After courtesy running for starting pitcher Blake Johnson, Shugart took second base on a wild pitch. With Patrick Nelms at the plate, Shugart dashed for third. The catcher’s throw was met by a cloud of dirt and skipped into left field, allowing the Admirals’ courtesy runner to sprint home for the 3-2 lead.
“We had 11 hits, but we didn’t hit when we needed the big one,” Gulfport coach Jamie McMahon said. “We needed to put pressure on somebody and he’s that guy. He can put some huge pressure on a defense just because he’s so fast.”
Gulfport tacked on an insurance run in the sixth off of a balk that scored Castor Lee.
Following consecutive singles by the Panthers to open the game, Johnson was called for a balk. The Admiral ace struck out the next batter, but the ball squirted past the Admiral’s catcher, allowing courtesy runner Dylan Pylant to score. Braxton Miller’s sacrifice fly to right field scored Tanner Estill to push Petal’s lead to 2-0.
Johnson settled down after that and allowed just one more hit in the final six innings.
“We came out a little sluggish and they came out ready to go. We gave up the two early runs but (Johnson) did a great job of settling in after that, locking back in, throwing some strikes to get them out after that,” McMahon said. “He’s a work horse. He knew after the first inning that ain’t me, so he came in from the second on and made the pitches he needs to make.”
Johnson finished with eight strikeouts in the complete game win.
Dykes, who throws from a sidearm angle, allowed Gulfport to get on base consistently but kept the homestanding Admirals from putting up crooked numbers.
“He pitched well, too. He’s tough to deal with at the plate. He has some movement and then at times it didn’t move so our hitters were a little baffled on that side of it. I thought he was really good tonight.