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The Starkville High School baseball team had a chance to claim the No. 1 spot in its division, Class 5A, Region 3, District 4.
Neshoba Central denied them first place with a 6-3 victory Friday night at Yellowjacket Field on senior night.
Trailing 3-2, the Rockets exploded for four runs in the sixth inning.
Senior starting pitcher Nathan Pugh started out the inning with a strikeout, but a hit batter, a walk and a strikeout that was not caught by the catcher loaded the bases.
Neshoba Central's Tanner Wells singled down the third base line to drive in a run to take the lead. Pugh's night was done.
"(Pugh) lost his arm slot in the sixth and got some runners on," SHS head coach Danny Carlisle said.
Nick Brooks came into replace him and nine-hole hitter Chance Fortenberry greeted him with a two-run double to take the lead for good for the Rockets.
"Defensively, we didn't play as sharp as we needed to (Friday)," Carlisle said. "It is nothing we haven't worked on. Kind of had a couple of mental lapses there in that sixth inning and let them put up a four spot. They hit some balls that found some holes."
It was the eight and nine hole guys for Neshoba Central that sparked the offense.
"They got production out of the bottom of their order," Carlisle said. "I don't know if that was a lack of concentration (on our part)."
The Rockets scored one in the fourth and fifth.
Pugh, Brooks, Michael Newman, Jordan Allgood, Victor Johnson, Maurico Clark and Daniel Murphree were honored before the game as seniors for their contribution to the program.
"It is a disappointment," Carlisle said of losing on senior night. "We wanted to start a new season (Friday), a 13-game season that would carry us all the way through May 14 (state championship). Now we can still have a 13-game season, it will just be 12-1."
The Jackets jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second when Murphree drove in Tanner Clanton with a single.
The third inning saw Pugh drive in junior Max Bartlett with a single and with the bases loaded in the third, Allgood walked driving in Jalen Campbell who had singled with a bunt.
Pugh got the start on the mound and found his way out of trouble early on as he did not allow a run until the fourth inning.
"I thought he pitched well," Carlisle said. "He pitched himself out of some early inning trouble. He pitched well in spots. He didn't pitch one of his best games, but he didn't pitch a bad game."
Pugh took the loss on the mound as he worked 5.1 innings, gave up six runs, four earned on seven hits. He struck out four batters and walked four.
Neshoba Central pulled starter Austin Harrison in the bottom of the fifth inning with one out. The Rockets brought in Zach Whittle. With runners on first and second, Whittle got Murphree to ground out to first and struck out Campbell to end the inning.
Whittle pitched 2.2 innings giving up no hits. He earned the win.
Brooks hit the ball hard four times, but had nothing to show for it.
"Nick Brooks hit the ball hard (Friday night)," Carlisle said. "He smoked those last two balls to get nothing out of it."
The Jackets (13-8, 5-2) now face the task of taking two in Canton on Tuesday. A sweep of the doubleheader ensures first place in the division for SHS.
"The only thing this game does is make us have to win two, but we wanted to win two anyway," Carlisle said. "It is no added pressure. We just need to take care of business."
The Jackets are back in action today when they travel to Water Valley. They also take on South Panola in Water Valley.View more articles in: