By DANNY P. SMITH
Thursday's baseball game between the Starkville Academy Volunteers and the Magnolia Heights School Chiefs was a matchup of two pretty good breaking ball pitchers.
When it came to breaks, the Chiefs got the one that mattered most in the fourth inning.
Starkville Academy opened the door for Magnolia Heights with a one-out error, then the Chiefs followed that up with a double by Jake Smith and a three-run home run by Nolan Shackleford to take a 3-2 lead.
The Volunteers never recovered from that and dropped a 4-2 conference decision at home.
"When you are playing this game whether it's pitching or playing defense, it's not the errors or the walks, but it's the hits behind them that hurt you," Starkville Academy baseball coach Neal Henry said. "We've got to make plays if we want to win. I can tell these guys want to win because they fought."
One Vol who particularly battled through the good and the bad was starting pitcher Hunter Bolin.
Bolin, a sophomore, went the distance, only gave up the two hits in the fourth, registered nine strikeouts and did not walk a batter.
Henry said it was the curve ball from Bolin that kept the Magnolia Heights hitters in check most of the game.
"I thought he threw very well and kept them off-balance," Henry said. "He used his off-speed and mixed that in pretty good with his fastball. Hunter's pitch count was pretty low throughout the game so we kept him in there and he had some quick innings."
Bolin struck out the side twice, including the final inning.
Equally effective with his curve ball was Smith of the Chiefs, who also worked all seven innings.
After giving up two runs to SA in the second inning, Smith tossed five shutout frames to follow that up. He also finished the game strong by striking out the final two batters of the game.
"He's a veteran pitcher and that's what veterans do," Henry said of Smith's effort. "When you have a bad inning, you shake it off and come back, then he threw up five zeros after that."
The Vols were only able to get two hits off Smith, an infield single by Bolin in the first inning and a solid single by Drew Pellum in the fifth.
With Bolin eating up innings on the mound, it helped SA's bullpen heading into today's varsity doubleheader at Magnolia Heights.
Henry knows there's not much time for the Vols (8-10 overall, 4-6 conference) to dwell on Thursday's loss.
"Sometimes when you pitch well and lose, that's just baseball," Henry said. "You've just got to overcome it and we've got to overcome it because we've got them twice (today) at their place."