STARKVILLE — The pitching on both sides was more workmanlike than dominant, but one team’s arms performed better than the other’s.
Clutch hitting really wasn’t there, but one team put the ball in play better than the other.
The Starkville High School baseball team did both things just a little better on Thursday night, and the result was a 5-1 win over East Webster.
Starkville coach Luke Adkins said that the game was typical of his team’s start.
“We’re getting runners on, we’re getting runners in scoring position, but we’ve got to have somebody step up,” said Adkins, whose team left 14 runners on base in six innings. “That should probably have been a 10-1 ballgame with the number of runners that were left on.”
East Webster starter Kaiden Simmons and three relievers combined to issue 10 walks, and four of them scored. But that wasn’t the case early, as Simmons stranded eight Yellow Jackets over the first four innings, ending each of them with one of his eight strikeouts.
The trend began immediately, as Simmons issued consecutive one-out walks to Koby Livingston, Ethan Pulliam and Otto Hyche. But shortly after the sound system played a few lines of “Wild Thing” Simmons recorded back-to-back strikeouts to get out of it.
Inning after inning, there were Yellow Jackets all over the bases. And inning after inning, they could not push across a run. East Webster scored first, getting a run in the top of the fifth on a walk, a hit batter and two singles.
But the Yellow Jackets finally broke through in their half of the inning, when the Wolverines used four pitchers to get three outs. Along the way they issued five walks and balked twice, both by relief pitcher Cade Morrow. The second balk brought Hyche home from third to tie the game at 1-1. A grounder to second by Karsten Upchurch brought in the second run, and Chipper Hornburger’s bases-loaded infield single to deep short made it 3-1.
Upchurch, who started for the Yellow Jackets, did not bat before that inning.
“I DHed for Karsten at the beginning of the game, and then he comes up and gets the go-ahead run in and then in his last at-bat he hits a nice line drive to center field,” Adkins said.
Starkville added two insurance runs in the sixth on an RBI single just over the shortstop’s head by Xay Caldwell and a sacrifice fly by Kieran Coleman.
All nine of Starkville’s hits and all four of East Webster’s hits were singles, and neither team committed an error.
Coleman, who got the win after relieving Upchurch in the fifth, then pitched a perfect seventh to finish the win for Starkville (2-3). It was the only clean inning of the game by either team.
“I was planning on saving him because we’ve got two more games this week, but we got in a close one and I’d rather try and get this one and then figure it out going forward,” the coach said. “Carsten Upchurch gave us four good, solid innings, but he was starting to wear down. Kieran came in and did his job.”
The next job for the Yellow Jackets is doing a better job of taking advantage of scoring opportunities.
“I just got done telling the guys, I think we’re trying to do too much,” Adkins said. “You’ve got a runner on third and less than two outs; a ground ball to the right side gets the job done just like a deep sac fly. Once we can get that in our heads and have that approach when we go to the plate, I think we’ll start turning the corner.”
Adkins said the Jackets are a relatively young team, and with the typical bad weather early in the season they have not had the chance to put things together.
“We’ve caught a lot of rainouts early, and we’re really just now getting to where we can play two or three days in a row and kind of get in our groove,” Adkins said. “I expect it to get better and better as we go along.”
Weather permitting, Starkville will get the chance to play three days in a row, as they follow Thursday night’s win with a Friday game at Amory and a Saturday game at Center Hill.