Low on fumes and fighting to find the energy with each pitch during the last two innings of Wednesday's game at Trustmark Park, Bailee Hendon found a way to deliver.
The senior lefty tossed a complete-game shutout for Vancleave to take down New Hope 1-0 in Game 1 of the Class 4A state title series at Trustmark Park.
He was still a little woozy after the final pitch, but he didn't mind the 90-degree heat at that point. The Vancleave baseball team is one win away from the program's first state title.
“It really don't feel that bad, to be honest with you,” he said with a slight grin.
Game 2 is set for 7 p.m. on Friday in Pearl.
Hendon struck out eight and walked two in seven innings to improve to 12-0. He cleared the 100-strikeout mark in the game, giving him 106 K's in 70 innings.
“That heat got to me and I was dehydrated the whole game,” Hendon said. “I came out strong and just had to fight through it at the end.”
Hendon's fastball hit 87 miles per hour in the first inning and dipped down to 82 in the last two innings.
“It was 90 degrees and most of our games have been late games,” Vancleave coach Daniel Best said. “That was our first game in that heat. It would drain anybody. You get tired a little quicker. He did a great job of battling through it and getting the job done.”
For Hendon, it was just a matter of keeping it in the zone.
"I just had to locate," he said. "My velocity wasn't there. It was just location."
Vancleave's lone run in the game was the result of a pair of New Hope fielding errors in the top of the second inning.
With two out, Vancleave's Gavin McKerchie reached on an error by New Hope shortstop Nick Sims and Evan Keith singled to put men on first and third. McKerchie scored from third when Hayden Robb sent a hard hit grounder to Sims, who turned and made a high throw to second base, allowing Vancleave to take the 1-0 lead.
Hendon felt pretty good about his team's chances once there was one run on the scoreboard.
“I thought we had it in the bag,” he said.
New Hope (29-6) threatened to get on the scoreboard in the fifth inning when a Hendon wild pitch allowed runners to move over to second and third with two outs, but Hendon managed to get out of the jam with a strikeout of Tyler Murphy to strand two runners.
There also was a big play on defense in the fifth when Hendon managed to get the lead runner at second for the first out of the inning. Hendon's throw was in the dirt, but shortstop Colton Hipp made an impressive dig to retire the runner.
“That was a turning point in the game,” Hendon said. “We were fired up after that.”
Sophomore Ryan Burt put in an impressive performance in a losing effort for New Hope. He gave up no earned runs on six hits in seven innings, striking out one and walking two.
"(Hendon) is good," New Hope coach Lee Boyd said. "I thought our kid threw just as good. We've been here before, down a game in the playoffs."
Nerves can often play a part for a team making its first trip to Pearl, but the Bulldogs handled the moment with ease.
“I was talking to other guys last night. We stayed over here,” McKerchie said. “It pretty much felt like another game. I think we'll come out with another win Friday.”
Robb (8-2, 1.83) will be the starting pitcher for Vancleave on Friday. The projected starter for New Hope is junior Payton Springfield (7-2, 4.43).