New Hope High School junior Rye McGlothin is not your everyday No. 7 hitter.
“Eight home runs, from the seven-hole,” New Hope coach Lee Boyd said. “That’s a secret weapon. People are surprised by power that low in the lineup. You just can’t fool him.”
With his team struggling Friday night, McGlothin again got the offense going with a massive home run to left center field.
It was the fifth inning and New Hope needed to start scoring. In the end, they did just enough of that, beating Ripley 4-3 to clinch a Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A playoff series before a packed house at Trojan Field.
“We just needed something,” McGlothin said. “That’s been the story of this team. One thing is going to get us going.”
On both nights against Ripley, that one thing was McGlothin. He hit a two-run home run in a 3-1 win Thursday night at Ripley. Friday night, his solo shot started the home team’s rally from a 3-0 deficit.
Friday’s win meant a 2-0 sweep in the playoff series and a return trip to the North State championship series.
That series starts Thursday at Trojan Field and it is against region rival Kosciusko (18-13).
“Rye probably wanted to play Ripley one more time,” New Hope senior catcher Cade Odom said. “The rest of us are happy about moving on to the North State championship series. There is a lot of tradition in this program. We want to hold our spot.”
New Hope (26-5) rolled to a region championship with a punishing offense. In the postseason, the offensive numbers have slowed but still have been good enough.
“The playoffs are always going to be a little different,” Boyd said. “If you look at our team, any player is capable. One through nine, any spot in the lineup might be the one that night. Defensively, we have that good play from that person and then another good play from another person. The pitching has been solid. This was the type of game that we have been playing in the playoffs.”
New Hope moved to 6-1 in the postseason with another solid, gritty effort.
Junior pitcher Payton Springfield was clearly not at his best. However, he kept competing. Nick Sims was dominant in the seventh inning, retiring the side in order and then fist pumping his teammates as he came storming off the mound after getting the final out.
The capacity crowd approved.
“Nick is something,” Odom said. “He just has an incredible amount of passion for playing this game. He had the adrenaline going and blew it right by them there in the seventh inning.”
Ripley (22-5) built a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a balk call and RBI-single by Mason McBride.
Springfield was touched for at least one hit in each of the first five innings but kept getting his teammates back to the dugout.
An RBI-double by Will Long ran the lead to 3-0 in the Ripley fifth inning.
In the home half of that inning, McGlothin hammered a pitch to left center and the crowd finally got engaged.
Ripley pitcher Cole Melton walked no one through four innings. He walked back-to-back batters after the home run.
New Hope only turned that into one more run. Things then changed for good in the sixth inning.
Hits by Bryce Braddock and Springfield, as well as a walk loaded the bases. A sacrifice-fly by Odom tied the contest. A two-out dropped fly ball on the infield brought in the go-ahead run.
A great defensive play by Odom and the dominance of Sims ended the contest in the seventh inning.
“Everybody is excited,” McGlothin said. “We know what is left for us to reach our ultimate goal. We just have to keep working at it.”
New Hope swept Kosciusko during the regular season.
“We will have to talk the kids back down this week,” Boyd said. “Kosciusko has an excellent team. They have beaten Corinth, Caledonia and Amory to get here, so that means they are playing good baseball right now. Can’t take anything from granted. We just have to keep doing what we have been doing.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.