Max Bartlett of Starkville slides into second base in a cloud of dust Thursday night against Center Hill. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Starkville High School head baseball coach Danny Carlisle wanted his defense to get refocused and make a big play.
With runners on first and third in the sixth inning, Victor Johnson made a diving play in centerfield on a bloop hit to keep the runner at third and pitcher Nick Brooks struck out the next batter giving the Jackets a 5-1 victory over Center Hill Thursday night at newly named Carlisle Field in the second round of the Class 5A State playoffs.
"It wasn't (that I was) talking to Nick, it was talking to infielders," Carlisle said when he visited the mound in the sixth inning. "We lost our focus and we lost our energy. We weren't playing with any energy and we had to get that back. We were kind of going through the motions."
Senior Nathan Pugh stepped up in the bottom of the sixth inning and drove in TQuan Goliday with a double to give SHS (20-6) an insurance run.
"We needed some insurance runs and I was given the opportunity to score (it)," Pugh said who will play future baseball at Pearl River Community College. "I have confidence that anybody on our team could have done that."
Brooks allowed a two-out walk, but struck out the side in the seventh inning to end the game.
"I try to save a little bit," the East Mississippi Community College signee said. "(It's) as long as I can help my team out, and if I can hold on a little bit and keep us in the game. Whatever it takes. State Championship is the goal."
Second baseman Jordan Allgood was not left out of the top 10 plays in the field as he dove for a line drive going back up the middle to retire Dalton Shepard of Center Hill (13-15).
"The guys stayed behind me all game," Brooks said. "At practice, we stay on each other and we want to make the plays. They showed up big for me (Thursday) when I needed them the most."
The Jackets jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first when Allgood scored on a wild pitch and Daniel Murphree was issued a bases loaded walk driving in Pugh.
Harper Day reached on an error by the left fielder in the second inning and later scored on a groundout by Pugh.
"That is Nathan Pugh," Carlisle said. "That's vintage Pugh. He has been there all year for us. He is our leading hitter."
The Mustangs fought back with a run in the third to make it 3-1. Starting pitcher Jacob Marsh got a two-out double and later scored on an RBI single by first baseman Dee Gillespie.
The Jackets struck in the home half of the third when Maurico Clark drove in Tanner Clanton with a single.
Brooks (7-3) pitched all seven innings giving up four hits and striking out seven.
Brooks only walked four batters.
"I didn't think Nick was as sharp (Thursday) as he has been," Carlisle said. "The week lay off may have had a lot to do that."
SHS Principal Keith Fennell announced the new name of the baseball field as Carlisle Field right before first pitch.
Starkville travels to Olive Branch for game two of the best of three series today at 6 p.m. Pugh will be getting the start on the mound.
"(I want to) go out there and do what I do," Pugh said. "All Glory to God. I can't wait."
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