COLUMBUS – Starkville Academy baseball coach Neal Henry was going to rely on pitching and defense in the playoffs.
The Volunteers decided to do it another way and pounded out 17 hits to beat Heritage Academy 11-10 in game one of the first round of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools postseason at Trip Carson Field.
The play of the game was when Heritage's James Clark was called out at the plate after trying to tie the game at nine a piece on a base hit. SA catcher Colby Runnels blocked the plate and home plate umpire called Clark out without a tag being necessary.
"Colby did exactly what we teach him to do," Henry said whose team is now 22-9 for the season. "Drew (Pellum) makes an outstanding throw on a ball in the gap and we made a play. You have to make plays to win these kinds of games."
Runnels had a feeling that there might be a play at the plate when he saw which outfielder got the ball.
"I saw Drew get it and I know (he) has a good arm," Runnels said. "He gave me a good throw and I guess I did a good job of blocking up the plate."
That play sparked the Volunteers who got two insurance runs in the seventh inning when Alex Holtcamp had a two RBI single.
The Patriots (18-13) had their chance in the home half of the inning and got the game down to one run at 11-10, but Hunter Bolin got Clark Atkins to hit a ball back at him with runners on first and second and Bolin flipped it to first for the final out.
"(I was) feeling the energy from their crowd rooting against me and feeling the energy from our dugout and crowd rooting for me," Bolin said.
Heritage struck first when M.J. Harwick capped a three-run first inning with a two-run home run to make it 3-0 after one.
The Volunteers fought back in the top of the third and plated five to take a 5-3 lead.
SA sent nine batters to the plate and used four hits. Starting pitcher Ryan McKell finished the scoring with a two-run double.
"Heritage took the momentum early," Henry said. "They put three runs on in the bottom of the first with a big home run. I told our guys 'to stay patient and play the type of baseball that got us here.'"
The Patriots added a run in the fourth to make it 4-1. The Vols answered with two runs of their own in the top of the fifth on a RBI single by Pellum and a sacrifice fly by Bolin.
"It (was hot Tuesday), baseballs are flying out here," Henry said. "When we got a few guys on in the first inning, I knew we were going to be (OK)."
Heritage did not go away and took an 8-7 lead after scoring four times in the home half of the fifth inning.
"Heritage played a great game," Henry said. "Totally different team than what they were at the first of the year."
The Vols came right back and put up two runs in the top of the sixth to regain the lead for good.
Holtcamp got the win on two innings of work and two strikeouts. Bolin got the final two outs and got the save.
SA had two players with four hits in Stephen Robertson and John McReynolds. McReynolds also had a double. Runnels added three singles and reached base four times. Bolin had two singles.
Volunteer Field will be the site of game two at 5 p.m. on Thursday with a third game if necessary to follow.
"We got two games to win one," Henry said. "You just have to take one game at a time. You can't try to win both of them in the first game."