Despite sloppy defense, Petal takes down BrookhavenBy CAMAL PETRO,
PETAL – For a brief moment, Petal’s sophomore catcher Matt Mercer was in the doghouse. The keyword – brief.
After receiving a pitch in the fourth inning of Petal’s Tuesday night game with Brookhaven, Mercer tried to throw out the baserunner at first base but the ball sailed into right field. Brookhaven’s Sevante Quinn, who was at second base, tried to come around to score on the play, but Petal senior right fielder Dylan Pylant threw a laser to Mercer at the plate and the tag was applied for the third out of the inning.
The play kept the score 1-all, and Petal used the momentum of the play to beat the Brookhaven Panthers 8-4.
“That was a great play by (Mercer) and Pylant,” Petal coach Larry Watkins said. “It was a big run at the time, and we’re just happy we made the play.”
Petal came to the plate in the next half inning and scored two runs to push ahead 3-1, then a three-spot in the fifth opened the game, 6-1. Mercer even added a two-RBI single in the fifth to add to his redemption.
His error wasn’t the only Petal blunder, however. Not even close. The Panthers recorded six errors in the contest, which, in a way, made the four-run win a little more impressive.
The defensive performance was out of the norm for Petal, according to Watkins.
“We’ve played great defense this year, we really have,” he said. “We had some defensive breakdowns out there tonight. Hopefully, we’ll learn from.”
Despite the errors, all four of Brookhaven’s runs were earned, too. While senior Hunter Dykes was on the mound, four of the six errors were committed, but Dykes pitched around the trouble.
He finished the night with five innings of three-hit ball and five strikeouts compared to two walks. Of his 104 pitches, 58 percent of them were for strikes and the only run he allowed was earned.
“He competed,” Watkins said. “If we would have made a play here or there behind he wouldn’t have had to throw as much. That hurt a little bit.”
After he completed his fourth inning on the mound, Dykes had to get his Sacroiliac joint in his hip popped back into place, then he trotted out to pitch a clean fifth inning. That made his gutsy performance even gutsier.
Although, Dykes brushed it off after the game, saying, “It’s not big deal.”
With the game nodded at 1 in the bottom of the fourth inning, senior Nicholas Russell scored on a balk and Pylant’s single to left field made it a 3-1 game. Petal’s fourth run came in the fifth inning when senior Tyler Dobson reached on an error while junior Payton Rehm scored on the play, then Mercer slapped his two-RBI single to left two batters later.
Brookhaven chipped into the lead in the top of the sixth inning to cut the lead to 6-4, as neither of the two runs came from one of the six errors. Petal answered, though. Junior Colton Rainey doubled home a run in the bottom of the sixth and Dobson smacked an RBI single four at-bats later to push the lead to 8-4.
The Panthers (6-2, 1-1 in Region 5-6A) is set to travel to Seminary Friday for a 7 p.m. game, then they’ll take on Presbyterian Christian on the road Saturday at 2 p.m. Their next region contest is on the road at Meridian Tuesday.