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West Point comes up run shy of title game

 

David Miller

 

One run was all that prevented West Point from playing in championship game of the Dizzy Dean High School World Series. 

 

West Point came up short in its bid to make it to today''s championship game at Columbus High School''s Sammy Fletcher Field by suffering a 5-4 setback to Center Hill in the semifinals. 

 

Center Hill will play for the championship at 6 p.m. today when it meets Neshoba Central. 

 

Neshoba Central advanced to the championship game by dethroning defending champion Ridgeland 12-7 in the other semifinal game at New Hope High School. 

 

Center Hill tied the score 2-2 in the second inning on a two-run homer by Jared Thompson before scoring on a pair of fielder''s choices and a wild pitch to claim the victory.  

 

West Point made a late push, pulling within a run when Tommy Keys singled home a run in the fifth inning and Ed Cox stole home in the final inning.  

 

West Point had the bases loaded with only one out in the final inning, but went down on strikes for the final two outs. 

 

"This hurts," West Point player Brandon Edwards said. "We want to win and we know West Point hasn''t done anything like this in a long time." 

 

Edwards went 1 for 3, scored a run and was one of three West Point players on base when Center Hill pitcher Holden Pearson rang up the last two batters of the game.  

 

Edwards was torn between disappointment and acknowledging his team''s stellar play in the 12-team tournament. He hearkened West Point coach Buddy Wyers'' assessment of winning the small battles each game, especially with a berth in the championship game on the line.  

 

Edwards, much like Wyers, believes there was too much left on the field in the narrow loss. 

 

"Little mistakes hurt us," Edwards said. "Coach (Wyers) tries to tell us that big things will come, but these little mistakes will hurt you in the end. Getting the hits to have that extra man on second or third -- things like that killed us this game." 

 

West Point battled fatigue, too, after beating Kosciusko 8-5 just 35 minutes prior to the start of the semifinal. The three hour game came on the heals of a nearly four-hour game against Starkville Academy on Saturday night. That game ended at 10:35 p.m. 

 

Wyers doesn''t believe fatigue was a factor in the loss, though he said he tried to make sure his players stayed off their feet and were hydrated during the break between games.  

 

By the middle of the nightcap, though, players from both teams were visibly tired after playing in temperatures that nearly reached triple digits. 

 

"We did some things where we didn''t capitalize on opportunities to score more runs," Wyers said. "That could have easily been reversed and if we do a few things different than the outcome is different. I don''t think fatigue was a big deal." 

 

Wyers lamented the missed chances at the plate as his team had just five hits and was retired in order in three innings.  

 

West Point got a quality start from pitcher Will Harrell, who pitched a complete game with three three-up, three-down innings. He gave up five runs on four hits and struck out three.  

 

Despite West Point''s exit from the series, Wyers tried to put the tournament run into perspective for his young team.  

 

"In the last two or three years, we''ve played our pool games and gone home," Wyers said. "A big way that things change is by playing. During the summer, it''s more like a controlled scrimmage. You can try and coach them a good bit during games. During the spring, I try to limit how much we actually coach during the game. I think that''s paid off, and playing young guys two or three years ago. We''ve got guys who are experienced now.  

 

"We''re head and shoulders above where we were three years ago." 

 

n West Point 8, Kosciusko 5: A day after dodging rain, changing game sites and earning a berth in the quarterfinals, West Point advanced to the semifinals by beating Kosciusko.  

 

Starting pitcher Tez Pulliam surrendered four runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings to pitch West Point to the win. He struck out eight and and got out of a pair of jams in the first two frames, striking out the last batter of each inning with two or more runners on base.  

 

The last four innings, Pulliam gave up just one hit per inning. 

 

"I was just throwing strikes and letting my defense help me out," Pulliam said. "I was trying to work the outside corner and get my curveball working effectively." 

 

West Point welcomed Keys back to the lineup after he missed Saturday''s gamess by participating in the State Games of Mississippi.  

 

Cox went 2 for 4 with an RBI, while Edwards was 1 for 4 with an RBI. 

 

West Point showed no lag from a marathon 16-14 win against Starkville Academy on Saturday night, trailing only in the first inning after an errant throw from catcher Bruce Barclay gift wrapped the Whippets'' first run of the game.  

 

Barclay atoned for the wild throw with an RBI double to give West Point a 2-1 lead in the second. 

 

A Dalton Davis single in the third gave West Point a 3-1 lead. 

 

In the sixth, West Point taxed the Whippets for a pair of careless plays. An error at third and a wild pitch led to back-to-back runs and a 6-2 advantage.  

 

"That was a case where we did some positive things offensively to get some runs scored," Wyers said. "I thought in the middle of the game we hit a little bit of a lull, but the kids battled back." 

 

Kosciusko closed the gap to 6-5 on a two-run double by Connor Hill and an RBI single by Steven Hanson.  

 

In a pressure-packed seventh inning, West Point scored two runs on an RBI by Cox and an error that plated Will Harrell.  

 

West Point closed the bottom of the seventh with a 5-3 double play turned by Brandon Edwards. 

 

"I was kind of nervous, but I came back in the dugout and we actually got our momentum back," Pulliam said. "We started swinging the bats and it helped a lot." 

 

Kosciusko pitcher Kenny Barrow took the loss, exiting the game after three innings. He gave up four runs on six hits and struck out three.  

 

Steven Ables led the Whippets at the plate with an RBI and two hits.  

 

n Center Hill 5, Columbus 4: Columbus was eliminated from the World Series with a heartbreaking loss to Center Hill.  

 

Center Hill pulled out the victory after Columbus scored three runs in the sixth inning to tie the score 4-4. 

 

Christian Dale gave Columbus coach Jeff Cook''s squad a thorough outing on the mound by giving up five runs on six hits in a complete-game performance. He struck out four and only walked one. 

 

Jimmy Cockrell had two RBIs off one hit, while Chris McCullough, P.J. Lowe and Dylan Patel each registered two hits. Trace Lee drove in a run.  

 

For Center Hill, Zack Russell led the way with a pair of RBIs. Starting pitcher Robby Kirksey tossed 5 1/3 innings and gave up four runs on eight hits. He walked six.  

 

 

 

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