Leif Moore was off the mark for his first seven pitches of the game, but his next 77 tosses were as sharp as you could imagine.
The senior right-hander stymied a talented Biloxi lineup for a 5-1 victory Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Class 6A South State series, holding the Indians (29-4) to a single run on two hits while striking out seven and walking two.
Moore’s performance was made all the more impressive considering Biloxi scored 18 runs to finish off the sweep of Brandon on Friday.
The Yellow Jackets, who are in search of their first trip to the state title round, were set to host Biloxi at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Game 2 of the series. If necessary, Game 3 will be at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Biloxi.
Moore (10-1) appeared on his way to a bumpy start similar to the game he battled through in a 6-3 loss to Oak Grove in Game 1 of the previous round, throwing seven consecutive balls to begin Wednesday’s contest.
That’s when St. Martin pitching coach Hayden Cox made a trip to the mound to check on his ace.
“He just came out and told me to get the ball down in the zone,” said Moore, a Pearl River CC signee. “I just took the ball from him and told him to get off the field.”
That wasn’t the only topic that came up in the mound meeting. Moore also mentioned that he was having a hard time getting a grip on the ball.
“The ball didn’t have any laces,” Moore said.
After giving up an RBI double to Biloxi cleanup hitter Nick Skaggs with two out in the bottom of the first, Moore managed to get a grip and there wasn’t much the Indians could do about it.
“He was just staying low in the zone, starting off 0-1,” St. Martin senior catcher R.J. Fletcher said. “If he starts off 0-1, he’s unhittable.”
Fletcher, who bats out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup, also had a big say in the outcome of Wednesday’s contest, going 2-for-4 at the plate with a pair of runs scored.
He was backed up in the No. 3 spot by senior third baseman Brennan Study, who finished 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs.
St. Martin, which had seven hits total, jumped out 2-0 in the first inning with the help of a Biloxi defensive miscue.
Following a Leo Harris walk to begin the game, Fletcher sent a hard hit single that made its way through Biloxi left fielder Gavin Dick and all the way to the wall, allowing Harris to score from first and Fletcher to reach third. The next man up, Study, sent a double to deep center to knock in Fletcher for the 2-0 advantage.
Skaggs’ RBI double in the bottom the inning cut the lead to 2-1, but the Indians never got a man past first base the rest of the game. The only other Biloxi hit was a two-out single by third baseman Colten Keith in the third.
St. Martin (26-7) pushed two more runs across in the third inning with the help of another Biloxi error and an RBI single by Anthony Foto in the fifth gave the Yellow Jackets all the cushion they needed.
Skaggs was the Biloxi starting pitcher, giving giving up two earned runs on seven hits in six innings. He struck out nine and walked three.
Thursday’s game will feature a match-up of two senior right-handers with St. Martin hoping that Harris can replicate his Game 2 pitching performance from a 6-2 win at Oak Grove. Harris is 5-4 with a 2.45 ERA in 12 appearances this season. Biloxi will answer with Matthew Delano, who is 9-0 with 2.46 ERA in 11 games.
“We’ve got to push through and get back here on Saturday,” Biloxi coach Eddie Lofton said. “Tomorrow is a new day. We’ve lost games before. That’s why you play the season and put yourself in those positions. We’ve got to have a different mentality and really hunt the fastball.”
West Jones 8, Pearl River Central 1
The Blue Devils jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a Hayden Dunhurst RBI single in the second inning, but that was all they could manage on the road in Game 1 of Class 5A South State.
West Jones (25-5) scored five runs in the sixth inning to put the game out of reach for PRC (23-11).
Game 2 of the series was set for 7 p.m. on Thursday at PRC. Game 3, if necessary, will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday at West Jones.