The Heritage Academy baseball team strode onto Trip Carson Field with a newfound energy after leaving 16 runners on base during Thursday’s doubleheader split at Leake Academy.
Senior third baseman Aaron Downs said the Patriots pushed each other every inning, every at-bat and every pitch in Friday’s home rematch with the Rebels. The strategy paid off as Heritage Academy (20-5) pounded out 12 hits, scored 17 runs and run-ruled Leake 17-7 in six innings.
“We got a lot of energy going on tonight, finally got the bat rolling and came out with a win,” Downs said.
The Mississippi State signee went 2 for 3 with a pair of walks and drove in a team-high three runs for Heritage Academy. He had a two-run double that went down as a key blow in a seven-run second inning for the Pats.
Downs said seeing two of the same pitchers who threw Thursday for Leake — Will Martin and Rhett Atkinson — helped Heritage Academy right its wrongs with runners on from one day to the next.
“We left a lot of guys on last night and got key hits today,” Downs said. “We definitely got a lot of runs in, and it was good getting it done.”
Heritage Academy coach Chris Ball pointed to his team’s ability to respond when Leake made a game of it in the late innings. When the Rebels got their first two runs in the fourth, the Pats responded; after five unanswered Leake runs in the fifth and sixth, Heritage Academy put together five runs in the bottom of the sixth to end the game on the 10-run mercy rule.
“We’re wanting to score every inning,” Ball said. “What I was most proud of was when they scored, we turned around and answered back.”
Junior Rhett Ketchum poked a grounder through the right side of the infield to end the game and clinch the run-rule victory for the Patriots. Ketchum finished 2-2 and drew four bases on balls, quite literally walking proof Heritage Academy’s offense didn’t rely solely on hits Friday. The Pats drew 13 walks against a trio of Leake pitchers: Atkinson, Martin, Landon Walley and Eli Thompson.
Heritage Academy pitcher Jack Ketchum, meanwhile, limited baserunners in his start of five-plus innings. Never one to put up large strikeout numbers, Ketchum “shoved,” according to Downs; the freshman pitched to contact even if it occasionally cost him.
“He challenged them with his fastball all day long,” Ball said. “No one hit the ball hard on him. It was just a bunch of rolled-over ground balls that found the holes. I was very pleased that he missed a lot of barrels today.”
Perhaps most importantly, after the Pats put together their seven-run second in which they sent 12 batters to the plate, Ketchum took the mound and went straight to work. He retired Atkinson on a soft groundout to first base on the first pitch and retired Martin and Riley Myers in short succession.
“Anytime you have a big inning and you can come back out and get 1-2-3, the momentum stays in your favor,” Ball said.
Despite the Patriots’ offensive performance Friday, Ball acknowledged his team still has yet to put every facet of the game together — a few errors and hits let Leake get as close as 12-7 in the top of the sixth. Heritage Academy came closest in a 6-3 win over George County on March 20 at the Battle of the Beach in Biloxi, but the Patriots still seek that perfect performance.
“We’ve still got some cleaning up to do,” Ball said.
After a home game Saturday afternoon against Pillow Academy, the Pats will host rival Starkville Academy for a doubleheader beginning at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. For Downs, a native Iowan playing his first season with the Patriots, it’s a reason for excitement.
“I don’t really know the rivalry since I’m kind of new to this whole Heritage-Starkville Academy rivalry thing, but I’ve heard it’s pretty crazy,” Downs said. “I can’t wait. I hear they’re pretty good.”
New Hope 7, Hatley 1, Friday
AMORY — The New Hope softball team broke a 1-1 tie with six runs in the sixth inning to beat Hatley 7-1 in Friday’s road game.
Zoe Goodman led the Trojans with three hits, and Madyson McBrayer had two. Lailah Henderson and Annie Woolbright each had two RBIs, and Adi Dueitt had one.
Dueitt struck out six in a complete-game effort.
Meridian 20, Columbus 1, Friday
Pillow Academy 6, Heritage Academy 2, eight innings
Heritage Academy lost in extra innings to Pillow Academy on Saturday in Columbus.
The Mustangs broke a 1-1 tie with five runs in the top of the eighth, and the Patriots responded with just one in a 6-2 loss.
Reed Brewer pitched seven innings for Heritage Academy.
New Hope 6, Northridge (Ala.) 3
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — New Hope beat Tuscaloosa (Alabama) Northridge 6-3 in Saturday’s road game.
The Trojans scored two runs to take a 4-3 lead in the fifth inning and added some insurance in the seventh.
Gates Gerhart had a solo home run in the first inning and an RBI double in the third.
New Hope will play Tuesday at Grenada.
Germantown 6, Starkville 5, Friday
STARKVILLE — Starkville allowed four runs in the seventh inning of Friday’s home game in a 6-5 loss to Germantown.
The Jackets went into the seventh ahead 3-2 before the Mavericks pulled ahead. Starkville got within a run on a home run by Jackson Owen but couldn’t tie the game.
Owen finished with three RBIs to lead Starkville and tied for the team lead with two hits. Ethan Pulliam also had two hits.
Banks Perry had 10 strikeouts in five innings.
Starkville will play Tuesday at South Panola.
Choctaw County 4, Oak Hill Academy 3, Friday
ACKERMAN — Oak Hill Academy had its six-game winning streak snapped Friday at Choctaw County in a 4-3 loss.
The Chargers scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth.
Colin Boyd had an RBI single in the third for Oak Hill. The Raiders scored their first two runs in the first inning.
Oak Hill will play Monday at Heritage Academy.
Newton County Academy 9, Columbus Christian Academy 8, Thursday
DECATUR — Columbus Christian Academy dropped a close district game to Newton County Academy on Thursday in Decatur.
The Rams allowed two runs in the bottom of the sixth in a 9-8 loss.
Drake Shaw led Columbus Christian with three hits. Daniel Pate had an RBI double in the third inning and an RBI single in the fourth, and Jackson Howard had an RBI double in the fourth.
Lahndon Townley also had a double in the Rams’ four-run fourth inning in which they took an 8-6 lead over Newton County.
But the Generals scored a run in the fourth and pulled ahead in the sixth to notch the win.
Howard struck out two in four innings for Columbus Christian, and Shaw struck out two in two innings.
Columbus Christian will play Tuesday at Hebron Christian School in Pheba.
Heritage Academy 8, Winston Academy 1, Thursday
LOUISVILLE — The Heritage Academy tennis team beat Winston Academy 8-1 on Thursday in Louisville.
HA picked up a pair of forfeit wins in boys No. 1 and No. 2 singles.
Shannon McElhinny beat Winston’s Sydney Curran 6-3, 6-3 in girls No. 2 singles. Kendall Kelly and Elizabeth Nichols beat Winston’s Sophie Vanlandingham and Hannah Carpenter 6-0, 6-0 in girls No. 1 doubles, and Heritage Academy’s Mallory Ward and Ellie Dawson won 6-3, 6-3 in girls No. 2 doubles.
Heritage Academy picked up wins in boys No. 1 and No. 2 doubles, and Sarah Curtis and Braden Oswalt won 6-0, 6-0 in mixed doubles.
The Patriots will play Starkville Academy on Monday at Magnolia Tennis Club.