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By JOEL COLEMAN
Starkville High head baseball coach Danny Carlisle made no secret about his team's status following the game against West Point Saturday at Yellowjacket Field.
His team needed a win, perhaps more than at any other point in his coaching career.
Buoyed by the right arm of starting pitcher Garrett Batson and the bat of Wesley Montgomery, Carlisle and the Yellowjackets got just what they were looking for, defeating the Green Wave 10-3 to snap a losing streak that had extended to four games with an 8-7 loss earlier in the day to Louisville.
"We needed this in the worst way," said Carlisle. "We've been so close so many times. It's like earlier (Saturday against Louisville). We've had games right there in our reach and didn't make plays."
The Jackets (4-5, 0-2 in Class 6A, Region 2) turned their fortune around against the Green Wave.
Batson picked up the win, tossing 6 1/3 innings while allowing West Point's three runs.
Over the first six innings, SHS's senior hurler limited the Green Wave to just one run, giving Starkville ample time to build a comfortable lead.
"All I had to do was throw strikes," said Batson. "I had good defense behind me. They made the plays that they could and the ones they couldn't are on me. I take responsibility for the hits I gave up, but I'm thankful for our offensive play and the way people just played their hearts out."
No Jacket had a bigger game at the plate than Montgomery. The senior third baseman finished the day 3-for-4 with two home runs, a single, three RBIs and three runs scored.
Montgomery's first homer, a leadoff shot in the bottom of the first, was arguably his biggest as it erased a 1-0 West Point lead that the Green Wave had built in their half of the frame.
The second blast came in the fourth inning to stretch Starkville's lead from 5-1 to 6-1.
"What a day for him," Carlisle said of Montgomery. "Wesley's having fun playing the game right now. You hear mamas and daddies screaming 'have fun' all the time. I don't have a whole lot of fun getting my ears beat off.
"But the way you have fun is you win. Everybody is happy right now."
On the other side, things weren't as much of a joy for West Point head coach Buddy Wyers.
The Green Wave (8-5, 1-1 in Class 5A, Region 2) followed up a 12-2 win over Louisville earlier Saturday with the seven-run loss to the Jackets.
"We dug ourselves a hole early," said Wyers. "That always makes things a little difficult. Through the course of seven innings though, we ended up getting some hits, but I thought we should have had more. We've got to work on changing our approaches at the plate inning to inning and game to game and I didn't think we did a good job of that."
West Point's struggles turned into Starkville's success, and it couldn't have come at a better time for the Jackets.
After dropping a pair of division games to Columbus last week, Starkville returns to district play this week with a pair of games against rival Tupelo.
The Jackets host the Golden Wave for a 6 p.m. varsity game on Tuesday before traveling to Tupelo for a 6 p.m. varsity contest on Friday.
Batson is glad his team will be able to enter those contests now riding a wave of momentum.
"We definitely didn't need to go into (the Tupelo games) without getting a win first," said Batson. "We would have been hanging our heads. I think now we have some lifted spirits and people ready to play."
The Jackets left a total of 10 runners stranded on the basepaths in a loss to Louisville earlier on Saturday.
One of the 10 stranded included the potential tying run in the seventh inning, who was left at third as the game concluded.
Junior starting pitcher Hayden Higginbotham took the loss for Starkville, allowing four runs in his 3 2/3 innings of work.
Offensively, the Jackets received a 5-for-5, four-RBI performance from junior Nathan Pugh.
Carlisle chalked the loss up to "walks, errors and a failure to put the ball in play in crucial situations."
"We didn't do what we needed to do," said Carlisle. "We got ourselves out more than we needed to. We're hitting (the opponent's) pitch instead of hitting our pitch."