It may have been the biggest strike thrown by Starkville pitcher Daniel Murphree on Saturday.
After the Center Hill Mustangs had loaded the bases with one out in the top of the sixth inning and trailing 6-3, Murphree got Dalton Shepard to hit a comebacker to the mound. Murphree tossed the baseball to his catcher Harper Day for one out and Day completed the 1-2-3 double play with a solid throw to Nathan Pugh at first base to end the inning.
"I was just ready to get out of the inning," Murphree said of his thoughts as the play developed.
The Jackets went on to put the game away with seven runs offensively to defeat the Mustangs 13-3 in six innings at Yellowjacket Stadium/Carlisle Field.
Starkville coach Danny Carlisle called the double play started by Murphree "huge."
"The inning-ending double play was outstanding," Carlisle said. "That let the air out of them a little bit. We try to win every inning so I was extremely proud of the way we came to play."
Along with Murphree's twin-killing, second baseman Jordan Allgood also started a double play in the third inning.
The Jackets were much more efficient on offense than they were in Friday's 4-2 loss in Olive Branch.
After only getting four hits in the entire second game, Starkville had that total after the first inning and finished with 16 total hits.
Carlisle didn't like the fact the Jackets had four groundball outs, 11 pop ups and six strikeouts at Center Hill.
"It was a very disappointing way to play that ball game," Carlisle said. "I thought they came back (Saturday) very focused. (Saturday) morning we came out and took batting practice at 11 (a.m.) and went about (Saturday) more of a business-type."
Starkville scored three times in the first inning as Nick Brooks and Maurico Clark each drove in a run with a single.
After the Mustangs tied the game with three runs in the fourth inning, the Jackets answered right back with a run in the bottom half of the frame on an RBI single by Max Bartlett.
Starkville increased the margin to 6-3 in the fifth on a two-run home run by Clark.
Clark, who drove in five runs for the day, adjusted at the plate after two poor swings to hit a shot over the left field fence.
"If Rico sits and waits on his pitch, he can hit it a long way," Carlisle said. "It's really good to watch him in batting practice because when he gets in a zone, he just stays right there."
Murphree and the Jackets got out of the bases-loaded jam in the top of the sixth and ended the game in the bottom half with seven runs on five hits. Murphree had a two-run double, Clark had a two-run single, then Pugh and Allgood had an RBI single each.
For the game, Clark had a home run and two singles for Starkville, while Murphree added a double and two singles, Bartlett had three singles, Allgood and Pugh had two singles each, and Brooks, Day and Tanner Clanton chipped in one single each.
The run support and defense was much appreciated by Murphree, who went the distance for the win.
"I wanted to come out and throw strikes," Murphree said. "I knew the defense had my back and I knew we'd hit the ball. Before the game, we practiced. Harper did a good job behind the plate. We've got to go on to the next round, do the same thing and play hard."
The Jackets, who improved their record to 21-7, take on the New Hope Trojans in the third round of the Class 5A playoffs. The series begins at New Hope Friday, at Starkville for game two Saturday and the third game back in Lowndes County if necessary on Monday.
"This one is over," Carlisle said about the Center Hill series. "We were 2-1 in this week and 0-0 for next week. Every week is a new season. We'll try to find a way to win the season next week."View more articles in: