Oak Grove collects early season district win over Brandon

HATTIESBURG – It’s been 12 days since Oak Grove ace Drew Boyd took the mound, but the long layoff didn’t affect the Southern Miss signee’s dominance.

He pitched a complete game, three-hit shutout against the defending district champions Brandon Bulldogs, leading his team to a 7-0 win to start district play. He scattered the three hits throughout the seven innings, while striking out five and walking one.

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“The scheduling was a little weird. Coach knew how to handle it,” Boyd said about the layoff. “I threw a little bullpen five, six days ago. Just wanted to be fresh for tonight and it worked out.”

Boyd allowed a single to the opening hitter of the game, but he didn’t give up another base hit until the sixth inning. He pitched 1-2-3 frames in the second, third and fifth innings, and allowed his lone walk in the fourth. While he only allowed the three hits and the walk, Boyd still missed some spots early before finding his groove.

“It wasn’t his best night, but Drew is good enough, when he’s not on his best night, to compete and get people out,” Oak Grove head coach Chris McCardle said. “It’s kind of my fault. I haven’t let him pitch since opening weekend due to some rainouts, so next time out he’ll be sharper, sharper and sharper.”

While Boyd put up zeros on the mound, the Warriors’ offense also had goose eggs on the board through the first three innings. In fact, Brandon starting pitcher Jack Hilton pitched a perfect first three innings before Oak Grove’s Kris Jones walked to lead off the fourth. Mack Pickering followed Jones with a bunt-single to start the fourth-inning rally.

S.T. McMurrian walked two batters later to load the bases with one out, then after a strikeout to give the Warriors two outs, Kade Shannon hit a pop up to the right side that found a hole in the Bulldogs’ defense to plate the first two runs. McMurrian scored during the next at-bat on a wild pitch to put Oak Grove up 3-0 after four innings.

“We got a seeing-eye single with Kade,” McCardle said. “He just put bat on it and it fell in the right place, and I thought once we got the momentum, our game picked up and we played good.

“You can’t just let a guy mow you down, so you have to make some things happen.”

With Boyd on the mound, the 3-0 lead felt like more, but Oak Grove added three more runs in the fifth inning to extend the lead. Brennen Roberts led off the inning with a hit by pitch, and Ryan Blackburn reached on an infield error when he tried to sacrifice Roberts over to second. That put runners on the corners as the top of the lineup came to the plate.

Jones singled during the next at bat to push the lead to 4-0, then after a strikeout, Boyd singled to left field to load the bases. With two outs, Hayes Maples singled to the opposite side of the field to score two more runs and make it a 6-0 game.

“We started making some better swings,” McCardle said. “Their guy did a good job. He was a downhill lefthander, and for some reason or another we’ve been struggling with lefties since the beginning of the season. I was proud of our guys. We’re going to enjoy it right now. We’re about to meet in the locker room and talk about (Friday).”

Oak Grove added the seventh run in the sixth inning, as Boyd hit into a fielder’s choice to score Roberts.

The Warriors and Bulldogs will meet again Friday night in Brandon for the second of three games this season.

“Playing back-to-back, same team is always fun,” Boyd said. “They’re still the same team, they’re still going to be good, they’re going to put the ball in play and we have to come out with our best tomorrow.”