May 5, 2009
MABEN -- East Webster High School baseball coach Wes Johnson preached all season to his pitchers about the importance of throwing strikes.
The inability to do that Monday cost the Wolverines.
East Webster took a 5-1 lead into the seventh inning only to lose to Stringer 7-5 in game two of the Mississippi High School Activities Association best-of-three Class 1A South playoff series.
The Red Devils (20-4) swept the series after taking the first game at home 4-3 Friday.
The Wolverines end their season at 27-5.
After winning state championships two of the previous four seasons, East Webster seniors like first baseman Tanner Roberson were disappointed not to get another.
"It''s just hard to explain," Roberson said. "The seniors wanted to go out with a bang. We just came up short. We had some opportunities we should have capitalized on."
A walk, a hit batsman, and another walk set the table for Stringer in the seventh.
"We were in a position to win," Johnson said. "We walked the No. 8 hitter, then hit the No. 9 hitter. At that point, we were looking for somebody to take the ball and put the game on their shoulders. We swung the bats well all year, but never really had that guy (on the mound) who could take the game over."
Jordan Mixon pitched five solid innings for the Wolverines after taking over for Blake Love, who started Saturday''s game that was suspended by rain after one inning.
After giving up one run in the sixth on two hits, Mixon walked the first batter he faced in the seventh before Johnson went back to Love, who hit Trenton Stringer with a pitch and threw two balls to Weston Stringer.
Johnson then brought in Christopher Gordon.
Stringer forced another walk before Gordon allowed consecutive RBI singles to Darious Beavers and Andrew Pierce. Derek Bynum drove in another run with a groundout and Chandler Blakeney delivered a two-run single to give the Red Devils a 6-5 lead.
"(Christopher Gordon is) a strike thrower, but he didn''t have a whole lot of velocity," Johnson said. "(Stringer) battled, so give them credit because they put baseballs in play and got hits when they had to."
Blakeney scored on consecutive wild pitches for the final run.
Gordon, another senior, was disappointed he couldn''t close the game.
"We started our freshman year winning (state) and we wanted to end our senior year winning it," Gordon said. "We just let too many opportunities slip through our hands."
East Webster built a 4-0 lead on a solo home run by Jermaine Liggins in the second, another solo shot by Reggie O''Briant in the third, an RBI walk to Taylor Williams, and a sacrifice fly by Gordon. A home run by Hayden Hendrix made it 5-1 in the sixth.
With three solo home runs and not capitalizing on a bases-loaded situation in the fourth, East Webster knew it left runs on the bases.
"We didn''t score the runs we should have scored early in the game or it wouldn''t have come down to (the end)," Johnson said.
Stringer''s Weston Stringer, who came back out on the mound after starting prior to the rain delay, worked six innings to get the win. Pierce, who threw 154 pitches Friday in a nine-inning effort, earned the save.
"We got the extra day with the rain and (Pierce) was going to come in," Stringer coach Tommy Perkins said. "He wanted the ball. He always does a good job.
"Weston Stringer kept us in the ballgame. We dodged a bullet a couple of times and that really helped us. He held them to five runs, and you can''t ask for anyone to do more than he did."
O''Briant led the Wolverines with his home run and two singles.
Johnson said seniors O''Briant, Liggins, Roberson, Gordon, Williams, Mixon, Love, and Jay McKee have meant a lot to East Webster.
"They''ve won a 100 ballgames in four years, and we''re going to miss them," Johnson said. "They worked hard and swung the bats well."
Perkins understands the significance of beating the defending state champions and was proud of how it happened.
"(East Webster) has a great ballclub and a great tradition," Perkins said. "We didn''t quit and kept on plugging away. We are just tickled to death to win."
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