Timely hits and ‘it’ factor have Purvis on constant roll in 2018

By CAMAL PETRO,

PURVIS – Typically, a team wants to peak at the right time of the season, which is near the end as the playoffs draw closer. Well, for the Purvis Tornadoes, they’ve been peaking since they started the season with a walk-off win over Presbyterian Christian in February.

After that, Purvis won six more games to begin the season 7-0 before suffering its first loss. Entering Tuesday night’s five-inning, 18-0 win in Region 7-4A matchup with Poplarville, Purvis is sitting at 16-2 overall and 6-1 in region play.

“We have to stay level-headed,” Jesse Johnson, Purvis’ ace on the mound, said after Tuesday’s win. “We beat some good teams and teams have beaten us. Day to day, we come out here and work every day. We practice till 5 p.m. every day. It doesn’t matter what day it is.

“Game by game. That’s all it is.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Click for PHOTOS from Matt Bush.

Johnson went into the game with a 0.46 earn run average, a 5-0 record and he pitched 30.1 innings with 44 strikeouts to just seven walks. On Tuesday, he pitched five innings of two-hit ball with eight strikeouts and three walks while shutting out the visiting Hornets.

There’s no doubt the sophomore right-handed pitcher has picked up and improved upon where he left off his freshman season.

“He’s a year older, he’s more mature,” Purvis coach Tony Farlow said. “The whole team, last year we were just happy to play in varsity baseball. Now, it’s a little bit more, ‘Let’s win when we take the field.’”

The mentality of the 2018 Purvis Tornadoes is visibly different, too. After only winning nine games a season ago, when the Tornadoes take the field this season, they expect to win the game.

“They have the ‘it’ factor,” Farlow said. “They enjoying being around each other, the guys talk and so far we haven’t been intimidated by anybody we’ve played. Sometimes we’re a little bit too silly, but we’re relaxed and having fun playing baseball.”

The confidence from the players easily stems from the Purvis pitching staff. Johnson leads the way on the mound, and junior Casey Burge and sophomore Mason Dilmore were formidable arms coming into the season as well. Sophomore Dakota Lee has added some depth to the staff, as he’s second on the team with 24 innings and sports a 4-0 record with a 2.33 ERA. Senior Keyshawn Bolar has pitched quality innings, too, with his 3-0 record in 12.1 innings.

Purvis also has a few more pitchers on the staff that haven’t been able to pitch, Farlow added. Despite that, pitching has been the strength of this team.

“If and when you make it to the playoffs, and if and when you get to Game 3 of a series, that’s going to be huge for us to have guys we feel like who can get the job done for us,” Farlow added.

If there was an issue, and it’s hard to find one, it could be inconsistency at the plate. An 18-run outburst is possible on any given night for Purvis, but there have been some low-scoring affairs this season, too. Unlike last year, Purvis is getting the timely hits even if it’s in those low-scoring games.

“I think you can find that on any team every season,” Farlow said. “It’s hard to stay hot every game. We’ve consistently pitched well all year; I think we’ve consistently played good defense, and the thing this year, we’ve seem to have timely hits. That’s huge for us.”

Led by Trenton Flatt’s three-hit, two-RBI performance, Purvis had seven batters recorded a hit Tuesday night. Burge added five RBI off his two hits, and Johnson and junior Parker Sharff each added a pair of RBI.

Senior Nathan Lott hit his first-ever home run, too, which was a three-run blast in the 10-run second inning. He finished the night with a 1-for-3 performance from the dish, two runs scored and four RBI.

“I knew I was hitting the ball out front and I was going to try and wait back on that ball,” Lott said. “I just ended up hitting it solid. I got lucky.”

Purvis travels to Poplarville Friday for a 6:30 p.m. contest.