Blake Hutchison could see danger in the sky.
The West Point High School baseball coach had already moved up Friday’s game at Columbus High School from 7 p.m. to 4 p.m. with thunderstorms looming in the forecast. With dark gray clouds swirling above the Falcons’ home field at first pitch, Hutchison knew the Green Wave needed to get ahead quickly if they wanted to beat the weather to a win.
So West Point (4-12, 2-4 Region 2-5A) scored four times before Columbus (3-9, 0-6) recorded an out, tallied 11 runs in the first inning and went on to a 17-1 win when the game was called due to lightning in the vicinity in the top of the third.
“I knew we needed to get off to a fast start with the weather situation,” Hutchison said.
By doing so, his Green Wave all but assured themselves a playoff spot out of MHSAA Region 2-5A. With a two-game lead over the Falcons, West Point would have to lose its remaining three games — one each against New Hope, Grenada and Columbus — while the Falcons run the table in the division to miss out on a top-three spot and a postseason berth.
Columbus coach Mickey Allen acknowledged those odds are long for a team that dressed just 11 players Friday due to injuries and other internal issues. The Falcons lost several players because of virtual learning and struggled to provide the requisite effort, Allen said.
“It’s hard to beat anybody in 5A when you dress out 11,” Allen said. “I’m not making excuses, but that is a legitimate concern for us: We just don’t have the bodies right now to compete at the level that we need to beat good teams.”
The Green Wave chased Falcons starter Tyliq Stallings with just one out in the top of the first thanks to a combination of walks, hits and Columbus errors. West Point senior Noah Essary’s second RBI single of the inning was the final blow against Stallings, as the two-run base hit to right center field put the Green Wave up 9-0. A John Austin Ricks single and a wild pitch added two more runs before reliever Bryson Jones recorded two straight outs to end the inning.
“West Point got off this bus wanting a win to get to the playoffs, and they just sealed it,” Allen said. “They just earned their ticket to the playoffs right there. They deserved it. They deserved everything they got today.”
West Point starter Ben Harrell went out to the mound after the 11-run frame and promptly got his team back to the plate. He struck out the Falcons’ top three hitters in an important shutdown inning for the Green Wave.
“He’s been one of our more consistent pitchers, and we need to get him some work in,” Hutchison said. “That was good to see him go out and throw that many strikes.”
Cole Ellis and JD Tumey each hit two-run, pinch-hit singles in the second inning as West Point extended its lead. Hutchison said he emptied his bench because Columbus doesn’t have a junior varsity team and his younger players didn’t have a chance to play Tuesday when the two schools met in West Point.
“I was glad to get them in and get a couple reps,” he said.
West Point sophomore Elijah Young, who singled and reached on an error, said he’s noticed improvement from the Green Wave. Young had 12 strikeouts in four innings in his team’s 14-4 win over the Falcons on Tuesday.
“I feel like we’re getting better as the season goes on,” he said. “We’re learning each other more, getting better as the season progresses — maturing.”
Young missed out on a possible playoff berth as a freshman when the season was canceled because of COVID-19. Now, two weeks away from making the postseason, he’s enjoying the moment.
“It feels great for the first time,” he said.
New Hope 13, Hamilton 2, five innings, Friday
NEW HOPE — Taylor Brownlee drove in five runs as New Hope softball beat Hamilton 13-2 in five innings in Friday’s home game.
Kensley Woolbright and Emma O’Bryant each had two RBIs for the Trojans. Woolbright led the team with three hits, and her sister Annie Woolbright and Lexi McBrayer each had two.
Adi Dueitt pitched all five innings, striking out five.
New Hope will play Monday at Grenada.
Pickens Academy (Ala.) 10, North River Christian Academy (Ala.) 3, Friday
North River Christian Academy (Ala.) 8, Pickens Academy (Ala.) 3, Friday
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Pickens Academy (Alabama) split Friday’s road doubleheader with North River Christian Academy (Alabama) in Tuscaloosa.
The Pirates won Game 2 10-3 after losing Game 1 8-3.
Pickens will host Heritage Christian Academy (Alabama) for a doubleheader Thursday. With one win, the Pirates will be area champions.
Amory 11, New Hope 7
South Panola 7, Starkville 6
Hamilton 15, West Lowndes 0, Friday
East Webster 18, Oak Hill Academy 3
Oak Hill Academy 15, Carroll Academy 10, Friday
WEST POINT — After falling behind 4-0 in the first inning, Oak Hill kicked its offense into gear in a 15-10 home win over Carroll Academy.
The Raiders took the lead with a four-run fifth inning and clinched first place in their district with the victory.
Ty Harden led Oak Hill with two RBIs, and Drew Wright had two hits.
Carson Taylor had six strikeouts in five innings for the Raiders.
Pickens Academy (Ala.) 14, North River Christian Academy (Ala.) 0, three innings, Friday
Pickens Academy (Ala.) 16, North River Christian Academy (Ala.) 0, five innings, Friday
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Pickens Academy baseball picked up two run-rule wins over North River Christian on Friday in Tuscaloosa.
The Pirates won Game 1 16-0 behind 22 hits, including four from Drake Lowery and three from Aidan Johnson and Hayden Dyer. Lowery had three RBIs to lead Pickens, while Johnson and Cole Gibson had two.
Lane Lowery pitched a five-inning complete game, giving up just one hit and striking out seven batters.
In Game 2, Pickens won 14-0 in three innings. Johnson and Gibson each had two hits, and each had three RBIs.
Bodhi Parham had five strikeouts on the mound for Pickens.
Kemper Academy 12, Columbus Christian Academy 3, Thursday
STEENS — An eight-run seventh inning cost Columbus Christian Academy in Thursday’s home game against Kemper Academy.
The Rams were hurt by errors late in the 12-3 loss.
Daniel Pate had a two-run RBI double for Columbus Christian in the first inning, and Drake Shaw was 2 for 4. Lahndon Townley singled and scored in the sixth inning.
Jackson Howard pitched the first five innings, striking out four.
The Rams will play Tuesday at Kemper in De Kalb.