February 29, 2012 2:36:00 AM
Starkville High executed three different hit-and-run opportunities to perfection Tuesday night.
With offensive production like that, the Yellow Jackets did not need the 12 walks and two hit batsman issued by Columbus pitching or the six errors made by the Columbus defense.
All of those extras led to a bevy of insurance runs as the Jackets belted the Falcons 18-4 in a five-inning prep baseball contest.
"We did a great job of getting hits with runners in scoring position," Starkville coach Danny Carlisle said. "The hit-and-run execution was text-book. Even though we only had eight hits, we sure did do a lot of things right on offense.
"We are real pleased at being 3-0."
Starkville scored the game's first 12 runs and overmatched a Falcons pitching staff not quite ready for the midweek wars.
"Pitching depth is a concern," Columbus coach Jeff Cook said. "We had a chance to get out the first inning without any runs being allowed. Then, we made some errors. Then after that, we couldn't throw strikes.
"We have three good pitchers, but I think we can get that to four. (Starting pitcher) Chris (McCullough) is a 10th grader. He started off good and then he got frustrated with the defense.
"That is something that he will have to learn how to overcome and he will. I was disappointed with our overall effort as a team."
Starkville scored three first-inning runs, highlighted by a two-run bloop double by Jordan Allgood.
An inning later, the lead ran to 8-0 when the Jackets plated five runs on only one base hit.
"It was important that we had a good start," Starkville senior outfielder Daniel Murphree said. "When you are on the road, you get to bat first and you want to set the tone.
"The biggest thing is we put the ball in play tonight. If we can keep hitting the ball around the park like that, we have a chance to win some games."
In the second inning, Starkville drew six walks with half of those freebies coming home to score.
An inning later, the Falcons were again in hot water after back-to-back hits by Max Bartlett and Nathan Pugh. Pugh had one of those perfect hit-and-runs.
Thanks to the shift in the infield, the Falcons (2-1) were unable to escape this jam with a potential inning-ending double-play ground ball.
Instead the two hits were followed by three walks and a two-run single from Murphree.
"We didn't catch any breaks but we also didn't make anything easy on oureslves," Cook said. "But, we are going to work on our effort. We are doing that right now (as the Falcons ran a series of post-game sprints in the outfield).
"One thing we are going to do is compete. We got down early and didn't get back up. As well as we played over the weekend (two season-opening wins over Shannon and West Point), this was a step backward."
After Columbus scored twice in third inning, the Yellow Jackets went back on the attack with six runs on only two base hits in the fourth inning.
"In practice, we have been working on hitting the ball hard and hitting the ball up the middle," said Bartlett, a junior shortstop. "We think we can make some things happen on offense.
"Everybody is pleased at 3-0 but we have to keep it going."
Murphree had two hits and four RBIs, while Bartlett had two hits and three RBIs. Allgood added a double and four RBIs.
Columbus managed four hits, including a single, double and two RBIs from McCullough.
Tanner Clanton threw the game's first four innings to earn the win.
"Tanner did not have his best stuff but he competed and threw strikes," Carlisle said. "This was a good outing for the team all the way around."
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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