Senior Clayton hurls, hits Tupelo to the next round

“And the thing is, they still haven’t played their best ball yet.” Tupelo Golden Wave head coach Gary Enis obviously still thinks there is an upside to this season, and now there at least two more games left to reach that potential. And the Wave are just two games away from playing for a state championship.

The Wave did all the basics well enough Saturday, scratching out enough runs, playing error-free defense, and pitching well to defeat the Columbus Falcons 3-1. The victory in Game 2 of this series gave the Wave a sweep, and advanced them to the semifinals of the Class 6A Tournament. Tupelo awaits the winner of the DeSoto Central-Northwest Rankin series, with the semifinal round scheduled to start Thursday.

“We came into this game relaxed and focused, but I didn’t want us to be too laid back.” Enis said. “We have done better at playing relaxed the last half of the season. And I can’t say enough about out pitching right now.”

Against Columbus (23-9) in this Game 2, Tupelo (24-8) senior starter Carter Clayton pitched in to the fifth inning, scattering seven hits during his stint. Sophomore Drew Hurst got the final out of the fifth, then finished off the contest, allowing only two hits.

Offensively, part of Tupelo’s success has been scoring in the first inning, which the Wave have done in three of four post-season games. Against Columbus this game, Clayton singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch, followed by a Michael Ray walk. Ty Wheeler then grounded to short, with Clayton scoring on the play.

Tupelo then backed that up in the second inning. Game 1 hero Chase Cernigliaro led off with a single, followed a batter later by a perfect bunt single by Matthew Miley as Tupelo loaded the bases. Clayton then knocked in Woody Goss with a single to left for the 2-0 lead.

The Wave then added one more run in the top of the fifth as Wheeler stroked a shot to right that turned around the fielder, who was also battling the sun. Garrett Hill came on to run, scoring as on a strike out as the Columbus catcher threw short to first, allowing the Tupelo junior to score on the play.

“I knew we had a senior-led team this season, and I knew that if we could get the job done between the lines, we could get the job done in the playoffs,” Enis said. “This team is still waiting to play its best ball.”

The Northwest Rankin-DeSoto Central series is tied 1-1 after Central won Game 2 Saturday 11-6. Northwest Rankin won Game 1 Friday 7-5. Game 3 is scheduled for Monday at DeSoto Central. 

Tupelo would travel for Game 1 if DeSoto Central wins, or would host Game 1 if Northwest Rankin wins. It is still up in the air how the schools would handle scheduling around Tupelo’s graduation Friday.

And the championship series for all classifications in the state are scheduled for May 20-24 in Pearl.

Thanks to David Wheeler for the post. Read his specials in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal and follow him on Twitter at @OldManDavid.

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