April 30, 2010 11:10:00 AM
HAMILTON -- Hamilton High School senior pitcher Dylan Earnest may not have been as sharp as usual and the opponent may not have been as rugged as those found in Northeast Mississippi.
But as Hamilton coach Lewis Earnest said, "It doesn''t matter who it''s against, a perfect game is a perfect game."
Earnest (9-0), who had a perfect game this past summer in Senior American Legion play and then another flawless outing earlier this month against Class 2A, Division 2 foe Calhoun City, was perfect again here Thursday evening as the Lions rolled to a 17-0, five-inning win against Shelby Broad Street in the first game of the Class 2A state baseball playoffs.
In the nightcap, Earnest''s cousin, Austin, with relief help from Chase Reeves, tossed a two-hitter in a 21-2 win to complete the sweep and earn the Lions a spot in next Friday''s second round against the winner of the Mantachie-Ackerman series.
In Earnest''s third perfect gem in less than a year, the Itawamba Community College signee fanned 13 of the 15 batters he faced, six of which were on called third strikes. Ed Smith and C. Alexander were the only two Jaguar outs not credited to Earnest, Smith on a pop to catcher Parker Rye in the first and Alexander on a ground out to Austin Welch in the third.
"I didn''t have a lot of pop on my fastball, but my breaking stuff was working pretty good," said Earnest, who struck out the side in three of the five innings he pitched. "Broad Street likes to swing the bat and I got some help when they went after a lot of pitches."
Hamilton scored what proved to be the only run it would need in the first inning and then added another score in the second for a 2-0 lead before erupting for eight runs in the third and seven more in the fourth en route to its 17th win of the season.
Designated hitter Cole Gill led a 12-hit attack for the Lions with a 3-for-3 performance, which included a triple and a single in the fourth inning, and he also scored three times.
Graham Pritchett (two singles), Nathan Cockerham (single and double) and Dylan Earnest (single and triple) all chipped in with a pair of hits as Welch (double), Kevin McCartney and Rye also hit safely.
Earnest helped his own cause with three RBIs, one up on teammates Chase Reeves, Welch and Cockerham.
In the second game, Austin Earnest (6-1) gave up a run in the bottom of the first when Broad Street sandwiched a pair of singles by Ed Smith and Colton Jackson around a Hamilton fielding error, the only two Jaguar hits of the game.
Trailing 1-0, the Lions took the lead with a five-spot in the top of the second and went on to score six in the third, five in the fourth and five more in the fifth before Jaguar coach Harold Billings threw in the towel with one out after his pitchers had issued 15 walks and hit four batters.
"He told me he just didn''t have anybody else to throw and asked if we could just end it," said Earnest. "I told him that was his call and if that''s what he wanted to do, it was fine with me."
After giving up the first-inning run, Earnest (Austin) threw scoreless ball the next two innings and then gave way to Reeves, who fanned two and didn''t allow a hit but did give up an unearned run thanks to a pair of Hamilton errors.
"We tried to get Chase (Reeves) some time on the mound and that''s why he came in to pitch," said Earnest. "He had some pop on his fastball and that was good to see."
Three was the operative number for Hamilton third baseman Graham Pritchett as he stroked two doubles and a single to finish a perfect 3 for 3 with three RBIs and three runs scored.
Dylan Earnest doubled and tripled as the only other Lion to post a multiple hit game as Ethan Earnest (double), Austin Earnest, McCartney and Johnson rounded out the 9-hit Hamilton offensive showing with one hits apiece.
Dylan Earnest and McCartney, who also stole three bases, scored four times each and Pritchett added three runs scored.
Devin Hopper, Cole Johnson and Reeves all walked three times and Hopper also reached once when hit by a pitch.
"Despite the lopsided score, we had four errors in this game and that''s way too many for this time of year," said Earnest. "I''m really concerned we weren''t challenged and that worries me going into the next round."