Starkville Academy sweeps doubleheader
By JOEL COLEMAN
There's no better medicine for an ailing baseball team than a victory.
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Starkville Academy took a double-dose of winning on Thursday at Volunteer Field, sweeping division opponent Pillow Academy in a doubleheader.
Following a one-run, extra-inning loss to the Mustangs on Tuesday in Greenwood, SA earned retribution with a 7-3 win in Thursday's opener and an 11-4 triumph in the nightcap.
"After Tuesday, we had a little talk to get that (loss) out of our system," said Volunteers head coach Neal Henry, whose team improved to 7-7 overall and 3-3 in conference play with Thursday's victories. "I've always told these boys, if they want to play in (the playoffs in) May, they better start winning conference games and they came out and took two and really pulled through when they had to."
Things began in fine fashion for the Vols in Thursday's action as starting pitcher Drew Pellum hurled a complete game to record the win.
"He's pitched pretty good all year," said Henry of Pellum. "His mechanics were messed up a little bit early (Thursday), but he found a way to throw strikes, get ahead of people and pitched excellent for us."
In what looked destined to be a tight, low-scoring game early, SA broke things open in the fourth inning with a five-run rally, scoring all five runs with two outs.
Henry credited the outburst to his team simply making contact.
"We've been focusing all year on not striking out as much and making other teams make plays," said Henry. "If you strike out three times, you give away an inning. Putting the ball in play has helped us out a lot."
In the second game, SA's Ryan McKell made his first start on the mound since recovering from labrum surgery in his glove-side shoulder and responded by hurling four strong innings for the win.
"That's what we needed from him," said Henry. "Just another pitcher to come in and throw strikes and just let them hit it. That was great to see. We made plays behind him and let him pitch with confidence."
Alex Holtcamp finished the game on the mound for the Vols, hurling three innings and allowing just one run.
Kyle Henson, Hunter Bolin and Holtcamp paced the SA offense in support of McKell, going a combined 6-for-10 with five RBIs.
Henry was glad to see his sqaud's bats come to life.
"You'll take that any day of the week," said Henry. "If we could average 11 runs a game, we'd win a lot of ballgames."
The Vols will try to build on Thursday's success next week with three games against Heritage Academy.
SA hosts Heritage on Tuesday with varsity action slated for 6 p.m.
The Vols will then travel to Columbus to face the Patriots on Thursday in a varsity doubleheader that begins at 4 p.m.