March 30, 2011 9:52:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School''s baseball team took another step backward down the division chain Tuesday night in an 8-5 loss to Tupelo High.
The Yellow Jackets, coming off back-to-back division losses to Columbus, gave up four runs in the first inning and spent the rest of he night playing catch-up.
Starkville had only five hits and squandered a pair of bases-loaded opportunities in falling to 4-7 and 0-3 in Class 6A, Region 2. It trails region leader Tupelo (14-1, 3-0) by three games.
"Somewhere, we''ve got to quit trying to play them close and win one," Starkville coach Danny Carlisle said. "I was proud of the way we battled; we never gave up, but in the same token, it''s 5-3 with the bases loaded. You get a hit right there, we make a little noise right there and it can get interesting."
Tupelo starting pitcher J.D. Roberts overcame a first-inning error by first baseman Cody Shrewsberry that pushed two Starkville runners across. The Golden Wave gave up four unearned runs. Roberts gave up five runs on five hits in 4 1/3 innings. He walked five and struck out four.
The Yellow Jackets blew a golden opportunity in the bottom of the fifth after a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by Hayden Higginbotham loaded the bases with no outs. Jordan Allgood walked to cut the deficit to 5-3, but Tupelo coach Gary Enis lifted Roberts after he eclipsed the 100-pitch mark. Roberts'' replacement, Ben Aldridge, struck out Marico Clark and Victor Johnson to end the threat.
Aldridge''s side-arm, hard-throwing approach helped him get ahead of the first four he faced. He struck out seven.
"The ball was running good, but he wasn''t unhittable," Carlisle said. "He is probably one of the better pitchers we''ve seen. He works fast, and I like that. He did a good job of getting ahead."
Nathan Pugh took the loss, giving up six hits and five runs in 2 2/3 innings. Pugh was doomed in the first by a misplayed ball in the outfield, a pair of walks, and an error that led to four runs.
Though Daniel Murphree was effective in relief, Carlisle lamented Pugh''s early form and inability to get ahead of hitters.
"You run your pitch count up and your defense is on their heels," Carlisle said.
Trailing 8-3 after a Dylan Voncannon two-run double in the top of the seventh, Starkville had its last bases-loaded opportunity in the bottom of the frame.
Jordan Allgood got hit by a pitch to load the bases before a throwing error scored Jaquez Johnson and Algood to make it an 8-5. But Aldridge struck out the final batter to seal the win.
Starkville will return to the field Friday at Tupelo.