Four runs during the second inning highlighted the Starkville Yellowjackets’ 6-3 victory over the Gators of Leake Central, which took place on a damp and dreary night in Starkville.
“The win was great, (but) the conditions terrible,” Starkville High coach Brian Jones said. “Last week, we played a jamboree and it’s snowing on us, then we come out (Friday) and it’s pouring down rain. We had to have three or four delays during the first game which messed up our time a little bit, but overall a win is a win.”
Following an almost one-hour delay thanks to rain and the first game of the Starkville Classic, Max Bartlett took the mound for SHS.
Bartlett held the Gators scoreless in the top of the first before relinquishing the mound to Leake Central’s Donovan Barnes, who retaliated by retiring the Yellowjackets first inning batters.
Returning to the mound in the second inning, Bartlett once again retired the side.
A bit more action occurred during SHS turn at the plate during the second.
The second inning began with Tanner Clanton being walked. AJ Brown was then hit by a pitch, which was followed by a single compliments of Tyler Barnes, which brought Clanton in for the first run of the night. After an error by the catcher, Brown crossed the plate for the second run. A sacrifice fly by Timothy Johnson then scored Barnes to make it 3-0 in favor of SHS.
Bryton Conley ended the scoring with a double which brought Harper Day across the plate to close the bottom of the second with the Yellowjackets leading 4-0.
The top of the third was all about Bartlett who picked up his fourth, fifth and sixth strikeout as he retired the side. Despite a nearly perfect inning, Bartlett did allow the Gators to pick up their first run of the night.
For the bottom of the third, Leake Central starter Barnes was then lifted in favor of Boomer Pilgrim. Pilgrim’s time was short-lived as the Jackets posted two additional runs during Pilgrim’s tenure at the mound.
Bartlett highlighted the bottom portion of the inning as he walked, stole second and scored as Clanton singled to left to make it 5-1.
Barnes stepped up to the plate getting his second hit and RBI of the day, scoring Clanton in the process to end the inning with SHS leading 6-1.
“(Barnes) is a football guy so we haven’t had him very long,” Jones said. “Through early season practice, he has been lighting it up. He was off the radar as far as us playing him, but through practice squad he has just swung it very well so we said we were going to give him a chance and he has proven he can do it.”
During the top of the fourth, the Gators loaded the bases with two outs. The Yellowjackets then produced two errors on the play allowing two runs to score making it a 6-3 ballgame.
Lavante Dilliard entered the ballgame for the Gators during the bottom segment of the fourth and retired all three of the SHS batters.
The Jackets chose to bring in Justin Conner in the top of the fifth. Connor would replace Bartlett who ended his night with eight strikeouts and the win as the game was called following the fifth due to time constraints.
“(Bartlett) is a battler,” Jones said. “He threw strikes which is what we are conditioning him to do.”
Beginning the season with a win is big for Jones who is in his first year at the helm of the Jackets.
“It’s huge,” Jones said. “As a new coach taking over for coach (Danny) Carlisle, it gets your kids to believe in the system. Hopefully, we can build on it and be ready for Saturday.”
SHS returns to action Saturday night as they welcome Greenville-Wesson to town for a 6:30 p.m. ballgame.