Starkville Academy swept by MRA in doubleheader
Starkville Academy's offense finally clicked in the second game of a Tuesday doubleheader against Madison-Ridgeland Academy.
The bad news for the Volunteers was the Patriots' bats were even hotter.
MRA scored at least one run in all seven innings of a 17-10 win over SA at Volunteer Field, pounding out 16 total hits in the process.
"(MRA) is a pretty good hitting team," said Vols head coach Neal Henry. "They put the ball in play and make you make plays."
SA (9-14, 5-10 in division) made three total errors and five Vols pitchers â€“ starter Ryan McKell and relievers Ryan Mann, Alex Holtcamp, Hunter Bolin and Stephen Robertson â€“ combined to walk 12 MRA batters in the contest.
"Walks, they'll kill you," said Henry. "Like I've said before, it's not the walks that hurt you, it's the hits behind them. You can't ever defend against a walk. You want the other team to put the ball in play and your defense to make plays behind you."
The silver lining for Henry's club was the fact that the Vols finally found a way to put up runs against the Patriots. SA lost 10-0 to MRA on Tuesday before dropping the initial game of Thursday's doubleheader 2-0.
After the Patriots grabbed an early 4-0 lead in Thursday's nightcap, the Vols finally cracked the scoreboard against MRA on a two-run triple from Hunter Bolin.
Bolin himself scored one batter later when Drew Pellum executed a squeeze bunt to cut the Patriots' lead to 4-3.
In what became a bit of a theme for the game, MRA (14-12, 8-6 in division play) bounced right back in the top of the third with a three-spot of its own to stretch its advantage out to 7-3.
"We've got to do a better job of making plays and getting out of innings," said Henry, who graduated from MRA and also spent the 2009 season as an assistant coach with the Patriots. "When we put up three runs, we've got to have a shut-down inning after that. We've got to focus in more and do a better job of that."
In the bottom of the third, SA was able to close its deficit to 7-4 when MRA allowed Robertson to score on a double-play ground out.
While the Vols were unable to pick up any more in the frame, a scary moment occurred when SA's Colby Runnels connected for a line-drive right back up the middle that struck MRA starting pitcher Tyler Gonseth in the face.
After being attended to on the mound, Gonseth walked off the field on his own power.
"His nose is broke and they put stiches in his nose but he's going to be fine," said MRA head coach Allen Pavatte of Gonseth. "He's just going to be sore for a little while but he'll bounce back."
In relief of Gonseth, Pavatte turned to Kyle McCulloch, who nearly let MRA's lead slip completely away.
After the Patriots pushed across a run in the fourth to go up 8-4, SA's Alex Holtcamp touched up McCulloch with a bases-loaded triple to get the Vols within one at 8-7.
SA could get no closer the rest of the way, however, as MRA again answered back with a six-run top half of the fifth to take control at 14-7.
The Vols tacked on one more in the fifth to make it 14-8 prior to the Patriots scoring once in the sixth and twice in the seventh to go up 17-8, and SA's Stephen Robertson capped the scoring with a two-run homer in the home half of the seventh.
Following Thursday's games, which were originally scheduled for today before being pushed up 24 hours due to forecasted rainy weather, Pavatte was proud to see his club escape Volunteer Field with a pair of wins.
"First game we didn't swing the bats well but we pitched great," said Pavette. "Second game, we swung the bats great but didn't pitch great. I'll take this though. I'll take the wins. We won ugly twice and I'll take it."
Henry's club must now rebound from the losses as they prepare to host Jackson Academy at 4 p.m. on Monday.
"We've got to get over these losses and come back Monday ready to go," said Henry. "JA's a tough team but I think we can get it done."
MRA 2, Starkville Academy 0
MRA's Kirk Thornton dazzled against the Starkville Academy offense as the Patriots took the win in the first game of Thursday's doubleheader.
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"He's been dominant all year and he just pitched one of the greatest games I've ever seen," said Henry. "He was throwing all his pitches for a strike. We hit some balls hard but everything was right at them."