Middle inning miscues prove costly for Gators

Published 10:40 am Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Vicksburg High pitcher Tyler Smith works Tuesday night against Pearl. (Cory Gunkel/The Vicksburg Post)

Vicksburg High pitcher Tyler Smith works Tuesday night against Pearl. (Cory Gunkel/The Vicksburg Post)

The final score in Tuesday’s Vicksburg-Pearl game looked like an unmitigated beat-down, but the Gators’ 14-3 loss was much slower and closer than it appeared. Vicksburg fought through an early two-run deficit to keep the game within striking distance before crumbling in the middle innings, allowing eight runs in the third and fourth while committing four errors to lose their Division 4-5A opener at Bazinsky Field.

Tyler Smith issued seven walks in 3 2/3 innings to take the loss for the Gators (0-5, 0-1 Division 4-5A), who remained winless in 2015.

“The whole season has been about if can we find guys to pitch, and again, we gave up seven free bases,” Vicksburg coach Derrick DeWald said. “(Smith) got down to where he could kind of only throw one pitch, his fastball, and he kind of lost it there.”

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Pearl started its scoring when Todd Jenkins singled home a run in the first inning. Jenkins later crossed the plate on a two-out balk to make it 2-0, but the Gators answered in the bottom of the first to cut the deficit to 2-1.

The Pirates snagged their run back in the top of the third when Tyler Oliver singled to right field with the bases loaded. They then broke things open with a combination of small ball and timely hitting in the top of the fourth to expand the lead to 6-1.

“As much as we practice bunting, defense, executing and all that, we just kind of crumbled under the pressure,” DeWald said.

“We’ve got to have guys who have that bulldog mentality. No matter what happens, whether it’s a bloop hit, a bad mistake on the defensive side, just get the ball and turn around and say I’m going right back to work instead of hanging their heads. Our pitching staff has a tendency to do that. Our team has a tendency to do that.”

The Pirates were close to run-ruling Vicksburg in the fifth inning, when their lead ballooned to 11-1. But with a man on second and two outs in the bottom of the fifth, catcher Lee Middleton singled home the run to stay within the 10-run margin and keep the game going.

The Gators were able to scratch across two more runs in the sixth, but never came close to closing the gap.

Vicksburg next heads to Callaway for a pivotal Division 4-5A matchup.

“We’ve got to go over there and we’ve got to get a win. We’re 0-5 on the year,” DeWald said. “We’re making improvements. We had more hits and more runs than we’ve had all season. We’ve faced five pretty dang good ball clubs, there’s no question about that … We’ve just got to keep improving. We’ve got to have guys buying in and that’s what I tell them. You’ve just got to buy in to what we’re telling them and believe it’s going to work. If you do that, we’re going to start seeing that.”