Starkville Academy baseball earned a tight 5-3 win over Heritage Academy on a cold Tuesday night, with both teams demonstrating some fine pitching in the hotly contested district competition.
The game drew plenty of spectators from both communities in what both coaches considered a playoff atmosphere, and the product on the diamond matched the intensity.
The Volunteers got nearly a full game of work from starting pitcher Drew Williams and a solid closing job from Colby Allen in the seventh. Williams struck out eight while pitching into the seventh, while Allen struck out the potential tying run with a runner in scoring position.
For Vols coach Thomas Berkery, the sight of Williams dealing was nothing new.
“Drew has been the guy starting that first game for us all year now,” Berkery said. “This is his third year pitching for varsity so he gets it, and he lives for these moments. His dad pitched at State, and he’s got the moxie and the makeup, and we trust him to get out there and get after it.”
The Patriots played admirably, but a three-run third inning for the Vols gave them just a little bit of space and momentum.
“I’m proud of them,” Berkery said of his team’s effort. “It’s an old group; they’ve seen these types of games before. Cole (Ketchum) is a great pitcher, and quite frankly I’m tired of facing him. He’s got great stuff, but at the end of the day we executed our game plan. We got the job done when we put plays on, and it was a great night.”
Ketchum went five innings for the Patriots, allowing just three hits and striking out nine but walking five. He also gave Heritage an early 1-0 lead with a home run over the left-field wall in the first inning. The Patriots also scored on a wild pitch in the fourth and Lane Goodman’s RBI double in the seventh.
Heritage head coach Chris Ball rued his teams missed chances but gave credit to the opposition.
“That’s a very good ball club, one of the best in the state,” Ball said. “But you can’t walk nine people and expect to win the ball game. And we had a chance at the end to tie it up, a big hit and got one of our better hitters at the plate, and we had a chance. But walking nine guys, we can’t do that.
“They did a good job all night of getting leadoff guys on, and they just put pressure on us that way. Good competitive ballgame, good playoff atmosphere, but yeah we hate to come up short in this one.”
Allen went 2 for 3 with a double, two RBIs and a run for the Vols, while Cooper McNeel went 2 for 4. Goodman had two of Heritage’s five hits,
The Patriots will travel Thursday to Starkville for a doubleheader against the Volunteers.