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Starkville eliminated by Madison Central

 

David Miller

 

STARKVILLE -- After his team lost by the mercy rule in its postseason opener, Starkville coach Danny Carlisle thought the Yellow Jackets would respond with elimination staring them in the face. 

 

Instead the Jackets managed just two hits Friday in an 11-1 loss to Madison Central to be eliminated from the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A state playoffs. 

 

The scrappiness that saw Starkville make a fourth-inning rally on Thursday wasn''t there Friday as the Jackets were baffled by Madisson Central pitcher L.J. Hollins. 

 

The sidearm right hander was masterful on the mound, and aside from Chuck Tillery''s RBI single in the third inning, Hollins was untouchable on both sides of the plate.  

 

Hollins, who has committed to Southern Mississippi, pitched six innings, giving up a run on two hits. He struck out six and faced just 25 batters.  

 

Carlisle knew the matchup with Hollins would be a challenge as the Jackets couldn''t simulate his delivery in practice. 

 

"We swung at ball four several times," Carlisle said. "[Hollins] did an outstanding job, but we helped him." 

 

There was hope, though, with Starkville ace R.J. Johnson on the mound. 

 

But the senior gunner had a rough first inning, giving up four runs on four hits after facing nine batters. Madison Central''s Alex Collom and Brayden Jones ripped back-to-back RBI doubles to the right center field gap to highlight the quick start.  

 

Carlisle went to the mound to calm down Johnson, who responded by registering three-straight outs to end the inning.  

 

The first inning, in Carlisle''s mind, gave a glimpse into the miscues that would pop up later in the game. Third baseman Cody Berryhill had an error that scored a run, and relief pitcher Shaquille Hill had a wild pitch plate run after missing an out at first to check a runner at second. 

 

"The first inning kind of set the tone," Carlisle said. "They came out smoking and ready to go. We came out relying totally on R.J. to shut them down and weren''t really ready. I can''t understand why you wouldn''t be ready; you either extend your season or you end it today.  

 

"Unfortunately we ended ours." 

 

Johnson went five innings, but was far from his usual effectiveness, giving up seven runs on eight hits. He walked two and struck out just three batters.  

 

"I really thought we had a good chance with our No. 1 on the mound and being at home," Berryhill said. "The first inning, we got roughed up a little bit but felt we had a really good chance to win. We scored four runs in one inning at their place, so I always felt we could do it." 

 

With each inning, though, the pressure built for the Jackets (14-9) to get going at the plate. The third and fourth innings provided the best opportunities for Starkville to cut into five and four-run deficits.  

 

Following Reggie Campbell''s lead-off single in the third, the Jackets had runners on the corners with one out and then a pair in scoring position with two outs. But Tillery''s RBI single was all Starkville could manage. 

 

The Jackets had two runners on with a pair of outs in the fourth before Nick Brooks flied out to right field.  

 

Starkville managed just two bases the rest of the way and never found a way to get to Hollins or relief pitcher Josh Laxer. 

 

"You''re used to seeing it up top, then you come down to a game like this with a guy who brings it down low," Berryhill said of Hollins. "You have to make a fast adjustment, like a one-pitch, two-pitch adjustment. You can''t take two or three at-bats, but it took us that long to adjust." 

 

Game 1 walk-off home run hero Josh Crowder had another solid outing from the leadoff spot, going 3 for 4 at the plate. Mississippi State commit Peyton Johnson was 3 for 4 with three RBIs.  

 

The Jaguars (26-2) move on to the quarterfinals, while Starkville ends a second straight season with a first-round exit. 

 

"Today kind of summed up the season right there," Carlisle said. "We had some missed opportunities. If we make a couple of plays in division, we''re not playing a team that''s 24-2, we''re playing somebody else. We just let it slip away.  

 

"This is a season that, when we first started, I really felt like we''d be playing way over into May." 

 

 

 

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