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On to state title series: Vols defeat Patriots 3-0 to advance

May 3, 2012

Starkville Academy's Drew Pellum rounds second base after hitting a home run against Heritage Academy Thursday afternoon. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)

The Starkville Academy baseball team got back to what it does best.

Drew Pellum pitched a complete game one-hitter and hit a home run to lead the Volunteers to a 3-0 victory over Heritage Academy Thursday at Volunteer Field and advance to the Class AAA, Division II State title series.

Starkville Academy (23-9) meets Magnolia Heights, which took two-of-three games from Hillcrest Christian this week, in the championship.

"It's huge," Pellum said. "This is the first time we have been in the playoffs since 2006. It's just big for the school."

Pellum cruised through the Patriot line up and gave up his only hit to M.J. Hamrick, who hit a three-run home run in SA's 11-10 game one victory in Columbus, in the top of the second.

"Drew came out and threw a heck of a game," SA head coach Neal Henry said. "Drew just had an awesome day all the way around."

Hamrick was later erased when Vol catcher Colby Runnels gunned him down trying to steal third.

"Sometimes he goes unnoticed because no passed balls get back there," Henry said. "That's the thing with catchers, they are good when you don't notice them, but when you do notice them, they are not good."
Runnels was not done behind the plate.

Heritage's Tyler Marchak reached on a hit by pitch and tried to steal second. Runnels blocked a Pellum pitch in front of the plate and threw a strike to shortstop Kirby Cox to retire him.

"I practiced on my throws and my feet work," Runnels said. "(It's just) getting everything as quick as I can."

Pellum got the Volunteer offense going when he hit a solo home run over the left field fence off of Patriot pitcher James Clark to give SA a 1-0 lead.

"That was big for him to start us off and hit that home run," Runnels said. "It showed a bunch of leadership on his part."

Pellum went to the plate with a simple game plan and it paid off.

"I went up there thinking fast ball and he threw it to me first pitch," Pellum said.

The Volunteers added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth off of two Heritage errors.

With one out, Cox singled in the gap in left field and later moved to second when Clark tried to pick him off but threw it too high for first baseman Clark Atkins to handle.

Hunter Bolin reached on a fielder's choice. Cox and Bolin both scored when Runnels reached on an error by the shortstop.

"We just made plays and you got to make plays to win," Henry said.

Pellum had a solid wall behind him as his defense stepped up. The Vols only committed one error when Runnels was unable to handle a strike three in the dirt that bounced away allowing a base runner.

"When you play defense, it gives the pitcher confidence," Henry said. "When we do that, our pitcher's gain that much more confidence and that helps them pound the strike zones. You don't give anybody extra outs. We played great defense (Thursday)."

Pellum finished the game with nine strikeouts, two walks and two hit batters.

"(Pellum) is definitely our best pitcher and he showed it (Thursday)," Runnels said. "That's what we expect out of him."

If Heritage (18-14) had won the second game of the series, a third game would have followed to decide the series.

"Now we can go home and get something to eat," Henry said jokingly. "They came out with a mission (Thursday). They played loose again. They did a good job of not being too tense. They came out and expected to win."

The Vols travel for game one of the championship Tuesday with game two and game three at home next Thursday.

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