Big third inning helps Oak Grove cruise to victory

HATTIESBURG – Senior Kris Smith impressed on the mound and the Warriors plated nine runs in the third inning on their way to a 13-2, run-rule shortened game over Purvis Friday.

Smith pitched four innings of four-hit ball while only giving up two earned runs with two strikeouts and two walks. Smith had a short leash in the season-opener, but Oak Grove head coach Chris McCardle said any pitcher at this point of the season would have the same restrictions.

“I thought he did a good job once he settled in,” McCardle said. “He has a lot more in the tank than what he showed. I think it’s a first game kind of thing, and I think anybody we start, you can expect that kind of thing.”

As great as the outing went for Smith, the first inning didn’t go as planned. He allowed a single on the first pitch of the game, and a walk and a double gave the Tornadoes a 1-0 lead. Then, another walk loaded the bases.

Smith was able to get a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning, though.

“We started out on the mound not really sharp,” McCardle said. “First game jitters type of stuff, making bad pitches and leaving the ball up. Kris settled in for us. I made a visit to the mound and made adjustments really quick. He made a good pitch and we got the big double play when they had the bases loaded.”

The Oak Grove offense went down in order in the bottom of the first inning, but it was able to scratch across a couple of runs in the second to take a 2-1 lead.

With the bases loaded, sophomore John Rhys Plumlee was hit by a pitch, which scored senior S.T. McMurrian. Then two batters later, sophomore Kris Jones singled to the third baseman to score sophomore Kade Shannon.

The Tornadoes tied the game in the next half inning after senior Quade Delancey doubled to score senior Lane Knight.

However, it was all Oak Grove after that. The Warriors plated nine runs in the bottom of third to grab control of the game. Junior Hayes Maples tripled to score senior Drew Boyd, Shannon doubled two batters later to plate Maples and senior Brennen Roberts’ ground out scored McMurrian to give Oak Grove a 5-2 lead.

After Oak Grove already saw three runs cross the plate, the top two players in the batting order, Jones and senior Mack Pickering, hit back-to-back singles to take a 7-2 lead. An error after Boyd doubled and a single by McMurrian scored the next four runs to finish the scoring in the inning.

“First time through the order, I didn’t feel really good about our approach,” McCardle said. “I knew once we got a couple of innings in, I told them, ‘It’s a seven-inning game, so just settled in,’ and we barreled some balls up. I thought we did a good job.”

The Warriors scored two more runs in the bottom of the fourth, then held Purvis scoreless in the top of the fifth to end the game early.

“They gave us a little opening and gave us some momentum,” McCardle said. “It’s a game of momentum, and we hit some balls hard.”

Jones and Pickering led the Warriors’ offense from the top of the lineup, combining for four hits and four RBI. Jones was 2-for-3 from the plate with a pair of runs and a pair of RBI, and Pickering scored once with two RBI.

“I thought the first couple of at-bats, we kind of had to talk to them about not being so aggressive early,” McCardle said. “But, I want them to be aggressive, but be smart aggressive. They settled in, like the rest of them.”

Purvis was led at the plate by Knight’s 2-for-2 performance with a run scored and an RBI.