Gulfport coach Jamie McMahon has talked a lot about breaking through barriers in recent weeks. Judging by the celebration, Monday was a big one.
In fact, Gulfport’s 6-2 victory over Oak Grove qualified the Admirals for their first state championship appearance since 2005.
“Getting to South State, now winning it, you keep building your program to where this is what we expect every year. That’s what I want,” McMahon said following the win. “Now is it going to happen every year? No. But that’s the expectation I think we have with this group to push it through for years to come.”
McMahon built on his thought Tuesday morning.
“We broke through so now we have to finish it,” he said.
Next up for Gulfport (32-4) in the Class 6A State Championship series at Pearl’s Trustmark Park is a 24-10 Tupelo team that’s 6-1 in the postseason. Outside of an eight-inning win against Warren Central and a 1-0 loss to DeSoto Central, the Golden Wave have out-scored their opponents by at least three runs, with three lopsided shutouts.
“They’ve been getting some clutch hits in big-time situations, which this time of year is what you need,” McMahon said.
Because Gulfport and Tupelo have not played this year, McMahon has had to call around to coaching contacts in order to scout the Golden Wave — which is a common playoff practice at the high school level.
From what he’s gathered, he said, he sees a lot of similarities between his team and Tupelo.
“It’s going to be two similar teams. We hit with a little more power but in that big ballpark I don’t think it’s going to be a factor,” he said. “They play solid baseball. They’ll catch the ball, do the little things right. They have a couple arms they’ll run out there and are strike throwers. They play defense and try to make you make mistakes.
“I think it’ll be a good matchup.”
Tupelo is hitting .323 as a team with 11 homers, 82 stolen bases, a 1.78 ERA and a .945 fielding percentage. By comparison, Gulfport is hitting .295 with 28 home runs, 46 stolen bases, a 1.45 ERA and a .920 fielding percentage.
Although the Admirals had plenty of fun after Monday’s meaningful win, McMahon said his team has embodied an unfinished-business mantra.
“Same thing in the huddle last night,” he said. “(The win) was great and they celebrated but it was like, ‘We’re not there yet.’ That’s always a good thing to hear from your players. I think they’re all right.”
First pitch between Tupelo and GHS is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday. Game 2 will be at 4 p.m. Thursday.
Plenty of support
Plenty of former Admirals have kept up with the team’s success. Southern Miss freshman Alex Nelms, the older brother of third baseman/pitcher Patrick Nelms, was in attendance.
Gulfport’s first major leaguer, New York Yankee Jonathan Holder, has been keeping up with his former squad.
“Congrats @ghs_athletics on making it to state finals!” Holder tweeted Monday on a rare night off for New York. “Now go up there and bring back some hardware.”
6A championship schedule
Location: Trustmark Park, Pearl
7 p.m. — Game 1: Gulfport vs. Tupelo
4 p.m. — Game 2: Gulfport vs. Tupelo
Note: Game 3 is TBD