Led by Barrett, Sumrall navigates through Hattiesburg's potent lineup


SUMRALL – Monday night was a welcoming sight for Sumrall coach Larry Knight. After walking or hitting 14 batters in two, four-inning jamboree games Saturday, the Bobcats’ pitching staff, made up of junior Hunter Barrett, senior Grant Ready and senior Garrett Robbins, held a nationally-ranked Hattiesburg Tigers team to three runs on six hits.

Sumrall opened the season with the 4-3 win over the Tigers at Larry Knight Field Monday. The game was moved from Tuesday night because the Sumrall basketball team is hosting a first-round playoff game.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click for PHOTOS from Matt Bush.

“Needless to say I wasn’t happy,” Knight said about Saturday. “You know me, I’m a pitching guy. That’s where we start and end with, so we had a heart to heart.”

Barrett earned the start Monday, and he pitched four innings of three-hit ball while striking out four and holding Hattiesburg to one run. His only blemishes were his five walks.

“I felt great and all of my pitches were working,” Barrett said. “The best thing is having a good defense behind you, and it was just a good night.

“There are very good hitters on (Hattiesburg’s) team, especially one through five. Really tough hitters. I mean, the whole lineup is really tough, but one through five is tough.”

Barrett began the night with an easy first inning, striking out Hattiesburg seniors Dexter Jordan and Kam Wells after walking senior, two-hole hitter Joe Gray. He started to run into trouble in the second and third innings, though, but he still held Hattiesburg scoreless while Sumrall put two runs on the board in the first inning.

Barrett picked up two RBI from the plate in the first, lacing a pitch to left center field to score junior Zane Berry and Robbins to give the Bobcats an early 2-0 advantage.

Back on the mound, Barrett walked the leadoff batters in the second and third frames, but he was able to pitch around the base runners each time.

In the second, he walked the first two hitters he faced, then a sac bunt moved the runners into scoring position with one out. On a wild pitch, Sumrall junior catcher Graham Crawford was able to get to the ball and flip it to Barrett for the second out at home, then a groundout to shortstop ended the inning.

In the third inning, a leadoff walk and a one-out walk put two on quickly, but Barrett’s third strikeout and a groundout to first base ended another prime scoring opportunity for Hattiesburg.

“The first three innings, I was having trouble locating my fastball,” Barrett said. “I was gripping too tight and it was biting low. Throughout the innings, I adjusted.”

Barrett, who’s known for his knuckleball, said he threw his specialty pitch quite a few times in his outing, especially in the third inning. Even with runners on base, he was quick to say he’s not afraid to throw the knuckleball.

In Barrett’s final inning, the fourth, he allowed his lone run of the game, but still worked out of a jam. Trailing 3-0 to Sumrall, Hattiesburg’s Jay Reedy and Jaden Richardson hit back-to-back two-out singles, then Caleb Tart’s infield single that got away from second baseman Berry scored Reedy. On the same play, however, Richardson was thrown out at third by Berry, but the run scored seconds before the out was recorded to cut the Bobcats’ lead to 3-1 after four innings.

“He’s very capable of doing well against anybody,” Knight said of Barrett. “I’m very proud of him. You couldn’t really ask anything more from him.”

Knight added Barrett’s pitch count got a little high, too. He threw 87 pitches in his four innings of work.

Ready entered the game in the fifth inning to face the two best Hattiesburg hitters – Gray and Jordan. In what was Barrett’s only mistake of the night while playing third base, he let a ball he thought was foul go by him down the baseline, and it turned into a leadoff double for Gray. Jordan tripled off the wall during the next at-bat to cut Sumrall’s lead to 3-2, then Jordan scored on a double play ball two batters later to tie the game.

Ready got out of the inning with the game tied 3-3, then pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the sixth before being lifted in the top of the seventh after a leadoff walk. In the meantime, Sumrall scored a run in the bottom of the sixth, as Berry reached second base on a double error by Wells in the right field. He scored on a bases-loaded walk during Barrett’s at-bat later in the inning to give Sumrall the lead for good.

Robbins entered the game in the seventh to face Gray, and he earned two groundouts and a strikeout during the next four at-bats to end the game.

“We didn’t have Garrett last year throw much,” Knight said. “In the last inning he threw 89 (miles per hour), and that’s huge for us to have somebody come in. He’s not going to have to throw a lot, and he ought to stay fresh all year.

“Grant Ready, last year, that was the type of stuff he did for us. He’ll mess you up. He’s a guy who’ll go out there and throw from different slots. The ball moves and it really had some tough breaks behind it.”

Ready earned the win in relief and Robbins was credited with the save.

Sumrall only recorded four hits in the game, as Berry, Crawford, Garrity and Barrett picked up hits. Garrity’s homer in the third inning gave Sumrall the 3-0 lead.

Hattiesburg’s A.J. Stinson pitched well, working five innings while giving up four runs – three earned – on four hits. He also struck out five and walked three.