BILOXI Biloxi couldn’t come up with the key hits Saturday, dropping the second game of their Class 6A third round baseball playoff series to Oak Grove 7-2.
With the win, the Warriors (28-4) advance to the South State round against Gulfport (30-3).
“We are going to play arguably the best team in the state,” said Oak Grove coach Chris McCardle. “We are going to have to play really, really well next week.”
In the fourth inning, Trey Shaffer singled and Nick Skaggs doubled to put runners on second and third with one out. Jordan O'Keefe bounced to short allowing Shaffer to score when Mack Pickering threw to short to try to get Skaggs. The throw was wide, though, allowing Skaggs to get in safely.
However, Oak Grove pitcher Jordan Coursey got out of the inning with only run scoring, getting the second out on a strikeout and the third out on a grounder to short that Pickering took to first.
“We didn’t get the big hit when we had the opportunity,” said Biloxi coach Eddie Lofton.
Ryan Roch led off the bottom of the fifth inning with an infield single to second. Jacob Collier’s one out single put runners on the corners. Gabe Garza bounced a ball down the third base line. Roch and Warriors thirdbaseman Brennen Roberts got tangled up, allowing Garza to safely reach and load the bases.
Coursey walked Shaffer, cutting the Warriors lead to 6-2, before giving way on the mound to Ryan Blackburn. Blackburn ended the Indians threat getting the second out on a strikeout and the third out on a grounder to third.
The Indians also managed to get a runner on third in the second and third inning with two outs, with Cousey getting out of the second on a strikeout and the third on a grounder to short.
“We did a really good job with (Biloxi) runners on third,” McCardle said. “We try not to panic in those situations. We know we have a really good defense behind us. Our pitchers throw strikes. (Biloxi) had some opportunities, but we pitched out of them.”
Blackburn would pick up the save, pitching two-and-two-thirds inning, retiring all eight Biloxi batters he faced.
“We use him in that situation a lot,” McCardle said. “He is really competitive and throws strikes and lets his defense play behind him.”
While Biloxi was having trouble pushing runners across, Oak Grove managed to get the key hit.
In the third, the Warriors scratched out a run with Zach Dearman reaching on a swinging bunt to the thirdbase side of the mound. Dearman stole second and scored on a hit-and-run by Kris Jones.
In the fourth, a throwing error at short allowed Oak Grove to score a run in front of Zach Smith’s RBI double. In the third, an hit batter and intentional walk played into three runs scoring. One scored when the catcher dropped a bases loaded throw from short with the infield in. The other run came a throw from a pitcher was wide on Pickering’s bunt attempt.
“We gave up too many free bases,” Lofton said. “They got the hits they needed and we didn’t.”
Pickering had a perfect night at the plate for Oak Grove getting a single, a walk, and two sacrifices. Smith added a double and sacrifice fly, driving in two runs. Jones had two hits and an RBI.
Shaffer was perfect at the plate for Biloxi with two singles and an RBI.
Despite the loss, Lofton expects the Indians to come back strong next year.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you see us battling to get to South State next year,” he said. “We have a lot to build on from this year. The younger guys are only going to get better.”