MADISON – The Tupelo Golden Wave baseball team had a lineup full of heroes Friday in its first round playoff game against the rival Maidson Central Jaguars. And they needed every one of them.
The last two were Ty Wheeler with the game-winning RBI, and sophomore pitcher Drew Hurst with the final two outs of the eighth inning fight as the Wave held on for a 6-5 win.
“We threw the last two punches, so to speak,” Tupelo head coach Gary Enis said. “it was the sacrifice fly to get the lead, then Hurst closing the door.”
With the victory, the Wave (22-8) win the Class 6A playoff series 2-0, and advance to meet former division foe Columbus in the second round of the playoffs. Columbus also needed extra innings Friday to sweep its series with Clinton. Game 1 will be at Tupelo Friday, with Game 2 at Columbus Saturday.
The late-inning heroics were needed as Madison Central scored a tying run in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Jaguars loaded the bases with no hits and no outs to begin the inning, with a fielders choice plating the run.
Though it was extra baseball, the Wave did not let the extended play last long. In the top of the eighth, Carter Clayton turned a check swing into an infield hit. Michael Ray followed with a grounder that was misplayed, allowing Clayton to advance to third.
Ray stole second, then William Ikerd was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out. That brought up Wheeler, who with two strikes on him, lifted a fly to right field that scored Clayton, who made a smart slide for the go-ahead run.
Then the pressure fell to Hurst, who was on the mound for the final three outs of the seventh. In the bottom of the eighth, the Jaguars had a leadoff single. Clayton then made a nice diving catch on a bunt, and Hurst chalked up a strike out. Central still had life on a second single to put two on, but Hurst recorded the final out with a strike out.
“I can’t put into words how we feel right now,” said Ray, the senior center fielder. “We’ve been wanting to play Madison Central in the playoffs since we were freshmen and seeing Connor Carothers and that Wave team from 2011 play them in the playoffs. This is what you dream about.”
After Game 1 where Tupelo bats were almost absent, though it was a 2-1 win, Enis had a full-scale batting practice Thursday. That paid off for the Wave Friday, beginning in the top of the third inning.
With Madison Central leading 1-0, Matthew Miley led off the third with a single, winding up on third. With one out, Clayton laid down a perfect squeeze to score Miley. Tupelo kept going, with Ray hustling out an infield hit, eventually scoring on an error off the bat of Luke Weeden. Ikerd followed with a double, with Weeden scoring from first as Tupelo took a 3-1 lead.
The excitement level went up a notch in the fifth as the Jaguars scored three runs on three hits and an error to take a 4-3 lead. Tupelo responded in the sixth, with Miley and Roy getting one-out hits. Then with two away, Ray hit a ground that was misplayed, allowing two to score for a 5-4 lead.
“This was just a great win,” Enis said. “We didn’t want to go play a Game 3.”
Clayton started the game on the mound for Tupelo. Will Buse entered the game in the fifth, and Jason Garrett entered the game in the sixth inning.