BILOXI Biloxi broke open a scoreless game with five runs in the third inning en-route to an 11-4 win over Pearl, sweeping the second round Class 6A baseball playoff series Saturday.
“Last night was a long night,” said Biloxi coach Eddie Lofton. “However, I told the guys to go out there swinging at the plate.”
Although the Indians managed only eight hits in the game, their hits came at key points, taking advantage of five walks, three hitsbatsman, and three key Pearl errors.
“We also did the little things,” Lofton said. “We were successful in several bunting situations early.”
Biloxi (22-8) now waits the winner of the series between Oak Grove (25-4) and George County (18-12-1).
In their third inning explosion was assisted by a bases-loaded wild pitch and a two-out error and runners on second and third. Brodie King slapped a hard hit to third that made it past the third baseman and into left field allowing Nick Skaggs and Avery Davis, who walked, to score. Trey Shaffer opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly to left field. Skaggs had an RBI single earlier.
“We just didn’t do what we needed to do to stop them,” said Pearl coach Brian Jones. “We gave up too many free bases and Biloxi did what they needed to do.”
Behind Gavin Schmidt’s two-run single in the fourth, the Indians put three more runs on the board to go up 8-0 and threatened to end the game in five innings.
Steven Vanderlei was strong through five innings to get the win for Biloxi. Vanderlei, though, hit Bridley Thomas, his fifth hit batter of the game, to put runners on first and second. Austin McCrory then singled up the middle. McCrory’s single was misplayed by the Indians centerfielder, allowing Kelly and Thomas to score.
“Vanderlei did a great job today,” Lofton said.
The runs Pearl scored in the top of the inning would prove crucial in the bottom of the fifth as Biloxi tried to end the game early. Tucker Thomas had a two-run single in the bottom of the fifth as Biloxi took an 11-2 lead with runners on first and third and one out. Pearl pitcher Ryan Ard, though, recovered, getting grounders to first and shortstop to get out of the inning without allowing Biloxi to end the game early.
“It was a character builder for us,” Jones said. “We’ve got to fight for 21 outs and compete for the entire game. We had runners on base late. We did that.”
In the sixth, Biloxi’s defense continued to fade. Brayden Stensaas started the Pirates sixth reaching on an error to short. Tucker Jones followed with a grounder to first. Avery Davis ranged to his right and made the play for the Indians, but found second uncovered. By the time someone got to first, Jones beat out an infield single. Joseph Robertson hit a grounder that bounced off the Indians third baseman to load the bases for Pearl.
Jake Smithhart followed with a single to center to score one run and Tylan Knight with a bases-loaded infield single to third, cutting the Biloxi lead to 11-4 and chase Vanderlei. Matthew Delano entered to relieve Vanderlei and pitched one-and-two-thirds scoreless innings to close.
“We have to finish that game,” Lofton said. “I told the team after the game that everyone at this time of year is tired. We are going to have finish when we are tired.”
Tucker and Collier, hitting at the top of the Indians lineup, set the table. Tucker had a pair of singles with two RBIs. Collier reached all four times: twice by being hit and two singles. Avery also had two hits.
Smithhart had a pair of hits, an RBI, walk, and two stolen bases to pace Pearl. Stensaas had a painful night at the plate, getting hit twice, and reaching on an error.