It was apparent to Pearl River Central coach Neil Walther that Dylan Diebold had some work to do to find his way into the varsity lineup as a junior.
Diebold spent his first two years of high school starting at second base for the Blue Devils’ junior varsity squad, but his bat never quite caught up to his glove.
After his sophomore season, Walther sat down with Diebold to discuss his future with the baseball team.
“If you want to play for us, you’ve got to learn how to pitch because you can’t hit,” Walther said, recalling his conversation with Diebold.
Diebold response was, “Heck, I got nothing else to do.”
Diebold’s transition from light-hitting infielder to pitcher has gone far better than Walther or anyone else could have expected and Monday night’s 8-4 win over West Harrison provided yet another stellar performance from the junior right-hander.
While clearing the 120-pitch mark, Diebold limited a West Harrison lineup that leads the nation in home runs to three earned runs on six hits. He struck out four and walked three.
“I had to keep the ball low because the first (three) batters hit pretty good,” Diebold said. “I just relied on my fastball, stayed confident, filled up the zone and let the defense make plays.”
With the win, Diebold’s record improved to 7-1.
“I tell our guys all the time, ‘If you work at something really hard, you can be a pretty dang good player and someone who contributes to the team just by focusing on one thing,’” Walther said. “That’s what he has done.”
PRC’s victory clinched a 2-1 win in the series. The Blue Devils (21-10) will play North Pike (16-9) in the third round with a spot in the Class 5A South State series on the line. PRC will have the home field advantage in the three-game series with the Jaguars coming to Carriere for a 7 p.m. first pitch for Game 1 on Thursday.
PRC managed just four hits in Monday’s game, but senior catcher Hayden Dunhurst was intentionally walked in all four of his at-bats out of the leadoff spot and scored twice.
Dunhurst scored from second on a misplayed grounder on the infield in the top of the first, allowing PRC to take a 1-0 lead in the first inning without producing a hit.
PRC didn’t earn its first hit until Caiden Shoemake came up with a 1-out single to right field in the fifth, part of a four-running that proved decisive in the outcome.
A two-run double by Cameron Brunson in the top of the seventh provided PRC all the insurance it would need as Diebold finished off the victory in the bottom of the frame.
In Walther’s 12 years on the job at PRC, his team is 11-1 in Game 3 situations.
West Harrison’s season came to a close with a record of 23-8, falling to PRC in the playoffs for the third time in the last four years.
West Harrison junior first baseman D.K. Donaldson had a big night at the plate, finishing 3-for-4 with an RBI.
St. Martin vs. Oak Grove: 7 p.m., Thursday at SM; 7 p.m., Friday at OG; 7 p.m., Saturday at SM
Biloxi vs. Brandon: 7 p.m., Thursday at Biloxi; 7 p.m., Friday at Brandon; 7 p.m., Saturday at Biloxi
Pearl River Central vs. North Pike: 7 p.m., Thursday at PRC; 7 p.m., Friday at NP; 7 p.m., Saturday at PRC
Picayune vs. West Jones: 7 p.m., Thursday at Picayune; 7 p.m., Friday at WJ; 7 p.m., Saturday at Picayune
St. Stanislaus vs. Sumrall: 6 p.m., Thursday at SSC; 7 p.m., Friday at Sumrall; 2 p.m., Saturday at SSC.
Resurrection vs. Stringer: 6 p.m., Thursday at RCS; 6 p.m., Friday at Stringer; 2 p.m., Saturday at RCS
Ocean Springs vs. Brandon: 6 p.m., Friday at OS; 5 p.m., Saturday at Brandon; Game 3 to follow at 7 if necessary
Vancleave vs. Newton County: 6 p.m., Friday at Vancleave; 2 p.m., Saturday at Newton; Game 3 to follow at 4 if necessary