By DANNY P. SMITH
The weather may have been cool to start the Starkville baseball season Friday afternoon, but the Yellowjackets heated things up on the mound.
Shaquille Hill, Hayden Higginbotham and Nick Brooks combined for a three-hitter and 11 strikeouts as Starkville defeated the Pearl Pirates 2-1 at the SHS baseball field.
The trio of Jackets bettered what Pearl's Kirby Wixson was able to do by himself. Wixson went six inning, threw 97 pitches and struck out 10.
Starkville baseball coach Danny Carlisle was pleased with what he got out of Hill, Higginbotham and Brooks. He says the pitch-by-committee plan will continue if that's what it takes this season.
"I thought our pitchers threw extremely well for the most part," Carlisle said. "Shaquille got up a little bit in his pitch count. We were hoping he'd get four (innings) out of 60 (pitches).
"We're on a pitch count early because it's cold and we haven't had that much time. I'm not going to sit over here and watch them walk people. We're going to get our business done on the mound."
Higginbotham knows it's a situation where the Jackets are going to have to show their stuff on the mound.
"We're all fighting for a spot and you've got to come with your A game on opening day," Higginbotham said. "We came with what we had and look forward to (today).
"Nick and Shaquille, I can't say enough good things about them. They've both got great arms and are really good kids. They came out and poured it out for us."
Hill went the first three innings and gave up one single each inning with three strikeouts. Higginbotham came in and struck out the side in the two middle frames with only one walk to blemish his outing. Brooks worked the last two innings with the only baserunner he allowed coming on a seventh-inning error.
SHS catcher Blake Dawkins had a front-row seat to witness the performance each of the hurlers.
"Shaquille came in and was throwing good," Dawkins said. "He has good days and off days, but he threw pretty good (Friday). Hayden threw beautifully the first inning and was pretty awesome the second inning too. His fastball and curveball were going in the dirt, but they were swinging at it so he was catching them off guard. Nick did a great job of coming in and closing."
Dawkins produced the only two runs the Jackets needed with a two-run single in the third inning. The hit plated Brooks and Max Bartlett.
Even though Carlisle was glad to see his senior come through in that situation after taking a called third strike in the first inning with a runner on base, he wants to see his ball club piece more things together offensively.
"There's a little something missing and I can't put my hand on it right now," Carlisle said. "We're getting ourselves out on ball four. We battle then get ourselves out on ball four. We can't do that."
Of Starkville's four hits, Garrett Batson had a triple, Brooks added a double while Dawkins and Nathan Pugh's singles completed the offensive production.
The Jackets made up for their lack of offense with solid defense, only committing the one error in the seventh.
"We don't get an error until two outs in the top of the last inning," Carlisle said. "I thought they played pretty good defense."
Starkville looks to make it two-straight victories to open the season when it takes on Greenville today (3 p.m.). Carlisle plans to send out Lee Peeples as the starting pitcher.