Jordan's performance, clutch hits give Hattiesburg the edge over Sumrall

SUMRALL – Behind a dazzling relief performance from junior Dexter Jordan, the Hattiesburg Tigers pulled off a come-from-behind win over the Sumrall Bobcats 6-5 in extra innings Friday night.

Jordan entered the game in the second inning when Sumrall put together a rally to jump up 3-1. He pitched the remaining 6.2 innings and he allowed six hits and two runs – one earned. Of the 26 batters he faced, he threw first-pitched strikes to 19 of those batters and he totaled 14 strikeouts on the night with a 73 percent strike percentage.

“With it being early in the year, we thought we might have to,” Hartfield said of bringing in Jordan in relief. “Of course, you have to take it one game at a time. I knew there was a pretty good chance. Now, I didn’t want him having to come in, in the second inning, but we’re very proud of what he did when he did come in.

“He threw a lot of strikes. They got a couple of hits on him, but he bounced back and kept throwing strikes, so his consistency was really good tonight.”

While Jordan was dominating on the mound, the Tigers’ offense took some time to get clicking. Hattiesburg scored its first run in the first inning when it loaded the bases after two walks and a hit by pitch. Senior Keshawn Bullock grounded into a fielder’s choice to score senior Destin Holliman, but that was the only run the Tigers would get in the inning.

Sumrall answered in the bottom of the second with three runs. Sophomore Billy Garrity scored on wild pitch, sophomore Mason Story crossed the plate after a bases loaded walk and sophomore Tanner Morgan scored when senior Dan Lucas grounded out.

After the tough first inning, Sumrall senior pitcher Cody Davis found his rhythm. He put up three straight 1-2-3 innings before Hattiesburg got a couple of base runners on in the fifth inning.

“We struggled against the side-armed kid,” Hartfield said. “He threw really well, kept the ball around the plate and even when we were able to get guys on base, we couldn’t string together any hits. Matter of fact, we couldn’t get a hit for a while.

“Our approach wasn’t very good against him. We didn’t try to use some of the techniques that you have to use against a side-arm, and that’s something we have to go back and let it be a coaching point.”

Davis pitched 6.1 innings with five strikeouts while allowing only two hits. He did give up five runs, but only three were earned.

“I’m very proud of him,” Sumrall head coach Larry Knight said. “Last year was the first year we dropped him down, and I’ve had guys over the years who have done a good job with that, and I think he’s the next one in line. …  I’m very proud of Cody. He just filled up the zone. He got a little tired there at the end, but those underneath guys can be very effective.”

The Tigers didn’t record a hit until the sixth inning, but they did score a run in the fifth after senior Julian Conner executed a sacrifice bunt to move runners to second and third, and junior A.J. Stinson scored three pitches later when Sumrall catcher Graham Crawford tried to throw out Stinson at third, but the ball sailed into left field.

The run cut the Bobcats lead to 3-2, but Sumrall added another run in the bottom of fifth to push the lead back to 4-2.

In the top of the sixth, Hattiesburg cut the lead to 4-3 when senior Jamarcus Lang ripped a single passed the second baseman – the Tigers’ first hit of the night. The next batter, senior Noah Thornton, reached on a throwing error, which scored junior Jay Reedy to tie the game at 4.

Sumrall’s Dannis Jackson came around to score in the bottom half of the inning. The sophomore singled to right field to get on, then stole second base. When he attempted to steal third, the ball got by the third baseman into left field, and Jackson scored to give the Bobcats a 5-4 lead.

Needing just three outs to win the game, Sumrall couldn’t close it out. Conner reached with a single to center field, then advanced to second when the ball got away from the first baseman on a pickoff play, and he moved to third base on a wild pitch.

Gray came up clutch two at-bats later with a double down the left field line to tie the game at 5 and send it to extra innings after Jordan pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the seventh.

“Of course Joe, he’s not going to see a whole lot of pitches this year,” Hartfield said. “So, when he does see a pitch or two to hit, he’s got to come through and he did that tonight.”

In the top of the eighth, Conner again came up clutch with an RBI single to center to score junior Jaden Richardson and that gave the Tigers a 6-5 lead – it’s first lead since it was 1-0 in the first inning.

“Juju made some good adjustments,” Hartfield said. “Early in the game he struck out and had a couple of bad plate appearances, but he hung in there and didn’t get down.”

Jordan allowed a walk in the bottom of the eighth, but he also struck out the side to close out the game.

Extra:

In the bottom of the first, Thornton threw out two Sumrall base runners trying to steal third base. Another Bobcat runner was thrown out at third in the third inning, too. One of Thornton’s throws came after the ball found it’s way to the backstop, something Knight isn’t pleased with.

“We made three really bad mistakes at third base,” Knight said. “Two of them with one out, then one of them with two outs. We’ll take more chances with two outs, but our guys know our backstop. The ball bounces right back, so that’s at least two runs right there. I’ll be honest with you, that’s the difference in the ballgame. We score those runs and we have a bigger lead, then who knows what they’ll do.” 

(Richard Thompson PHOTOS)