TUPELO – In a pair of non-division home games Saturday, Tupelo bats were a bit on the silent side. But The Silencer had the situation under control.
Senior Ty Wheeler was four outs from a perfect game, but pitched a complete seven innings to silence the Belmont Cardinals 1-0. And senior Luke Weeden made the most of his first start of the season, also throwing seven innings to help defeat the Itawamba AHS Indians 2-0.
“Those seniors had to step up, and they did,” Tupelo head coach Gary Enis said. “A win is a win, and we’ll take them. The main thing was to get momentum for Monday and Tuesday.”
Enis was pointing toward the first of the coming week, where the Wave are scheduled to be at Hernando Monday, then host Hernando Tuesday. Tupelo and Hernando are tied for first place in Division 2-6A play with 5-2 marks, and if Tupelo wins one of he two games, the Wave win the division.
But the matter at hand Saturday included Belmont, which is in second place in Division 1-3A. Despite having only one inning in the books for the 2014 season, Wheeler was throwing to the plate the entire game. The senior was a pitch away from going into the seventh inning with a chance for a perfect game before No. 9 hitter Ryan Gray for Belmont blooped a single over third base to break up the bid for perfection.
Jon Mark Payne followed with a double, then Luke Alexander was intentionally walked. But Wheeler induced a pop to Carson Roberts at second base to get out of the bases loaded situation.
Tupelo, now 17-5, got its only run in the bottom of the third. The Wave had three straight singles, beginning with Hudson Roy and Carter Clayton. Michael Ray then got the RBI hit, all the offense Tupelo would need.
With a noon starting time, the Tupelo-Itawamba contest was a tight affair. In the second inning, a Weeden walk eventually set up a Roberts run-scoring hit. In the third frame, Roy and Clayton got hits, Ray walked, then William Ikerd drew a bases-loaded walk for a two-run lead.
In the meantime, Weeden scattered eight hits to the Class 4A Indians. The Tupelo defense contributed to the effort, highlighted by a Clayton diving stab of a hard-hit grounder to third that the senior turned into a force out in the top of the third. And in the fifth, left fielder Matthew Miley made a nice running catch in the corner to end the inning.
Hernando now is the prime concern for Tupelo. The division winner gets a bye in the playoffs, avoiding the playin round that begins April 25. Also, rain is in the forecast for Monday.
“We’ll tarp our field Sunday, but Hernando does not have a tarp,” Enis said. “But we still have to prepare for Monday. It is time for everyone on the team to step up and get the job done.”
If the games stay as scheduled, Roy should pitch Monday. The senior has not pitched since March 28. Clayton threw in a complete game win over South Panola Thursday, and sophomores Drew Hurst and Jason Garrett threw in a Friday loss to Grenada. Enis indicates that whoever is feeling the best Tuesday between the three would get the start.
Also on the horizon, Tupelo will host Madison Central Friday and the top-ranked team in the state DeSoto Central Saturday.