MOSS POINT -- Rekeya Travis drove in five runs and Jordan Billiot pitched a three-hit shutout as Poplarville beat Moss Point 6-0 to win the opening game of the Class 4A softball playoff series Tuesday.
The two teams will decide the best-of-three series Thursday at Poplarville in a possible doubleheader.
First pitch is 5 p.m.
"This will give us confidence going into the second game of the series," Billiot said. "It gets us ready to play them again and puts us one step closer to the state finals."
The Hornets started hot with their first two batters, Caylen Beall and Courtnee Strain, reaching after being hit, leading to Tamesy Kirkland taking over on the mound for Moss Point (9-7-1).
While the move would pay off in the long run for the Tigers, the first two Hornet batters facing Kirkland connected to put Poplarville up 3-0. Hitting from the third spot in the Poplarville lineup, Travis drove in Beall and Strain with a triple to left-center.
"I knew it was my pitch and I had to put the ball in play," Travis said. "I knew it was a triple off the bat."
Travis would score on Kaley Lambert's single before Kirkland would end the inning with two strikeouts.
Poplarville (16-3) would not score again until the sixth. The Hornets would put runners on against Kirkland in every inning but the fifth and seventh, but, aside from the sixth inning, the Moss Point pitcher would work her way out of trouble.
"They could have gotten down on themselves after the first inning," said Poplarville coach Jonathan Ray, "but they shut us down after that."
"I'm proud of my players for not giving up," said Tigers coach Alan Hill, admitting that Kirkland's work on the mound kept the Tigers close. "We played until the last out. We could have lost our composure or imploded, but we never did."
However, Hill said the Hornets' three-run outburst to start the game took the Tigers out of the game.
"We came out really flat," he said. "That first inning took the air out of us a little bit. And if you don't score, it doesn't matter how many runs you give up."
In the sixth, Poplarville would add three insurance runs to put the game out of reach. With one out, Devin Cazeaux hit a liner through the middle to single off Kirkland. Briann Barnes followed with a walk and, one out later, Kirkland hit Strain -- the fifth Hornet batter hit by a Tigers pitcher -- to load the bases with two outs.
Kirkland got two strikes on Travis.
"We have been working hard on hitting with two strikes," Ray said, adding that good things happen when batters put the ball in play rather than strikeout.
Travis grounded down the third-base line. With Moss Point third-baseman Maya Harvey ready to grab the ball and make the third out at third, the ball hit the third-base front edge and bounced high over Harvey's head, rolling to a stop in the gap between third and left, allowing all three Hornet runners to score.
"We had been close (to scoring) before, but could not get the big hit," Ray said. "We got a huge break on that ball."
Billiot made sure Moss Point would not threaten the Poplarville lead, getting the first two hitters out in every inning but the fourth inning. In that inning, Harvey led off with a solid single to right - the only hit of Moss Point's three hits to leave the infield. However, Billiot eliminated the threat, getting the first out on a fly to right and ending the inning with a double play.
Moss Point would get a runner to second in the second inning following a two-out walk to Brianna Barnes and an infield single by Jalicia Hughes. But a fly ball to center would end the Tigers' threat.
In the third, Jayla Poindexter made it to third when the Poplarville right fielder dropped her fly ball. Billiot, though, would strand Poindexter at third getting out of the inning with a grounder to third.
Billiot would pitch to just one batter over the minimum after Poindexter reached, retiring the last seven Tigers she faced.
"It was probably the best game she's pitched all year," Ray said.
Billiot, though, disagreed. "I was up and down all night," she said. "But I worked my way through it, getting my pitches over and hitting my spots."
Travis was the only player with multiple hits, going 2-for-4 with a double and triple and driving in five runs. Hornets lead-off hitter Beall reached on a single, error, and hits batsman, and stole three bases.
Kirkland pitched seven innings, coming into the game after the first two Hornet batters went to the plate. She gave up four hits and struck out four batters. She hit three batters and walked two other batters.
Jamaya Cunningham had the only other Moss Point hit, an infield single in the fifth inning, the final Tiger to reach base against Billiot.