STARKVILLE — Yellow Jackets baseball remains undefeated in 2023.
Starkville hosted New Hope in an exciting game on Tuesday night, one which the Jackets had to come from behind to win, 3-2.
The Trojans fought hard against tough pitching, and couldn’t come up with timely hits in the end to get back in front after falling behind in the third inning.
“Starkville is a quality team,” Trojans head coach Lee Boyd said. “They haven’t lost a game, they’re a good team, and they threw two really good arms at us. You know, we just talk about ourselves. If you look at these numbers, we had bases loaded in the last inning with a chance to win with one out. We struck out 12 times, we made seven errors, and we walked seven.
“If we start playing at all to our capability, we have an opportunity to be a pretty good program, a pretty good team, but right now we’re struggling with that.”
Otto Hyche got the win for Starkville (5-0) after a great start on the mound, striking out eight New Hope (5-3) hitters over five innings of work.
Hyche departed after the fifth, giving way to Ethan Pulliam, who earned the save, striking out four in two scoreless innings of work for the Jackets.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Starkville head coach Luke Adkins said. “Otto had another really, really good outing. Being able to bring Ethan in on the back end for some of these games, I think that’s going to help us really secure a lot of wins throughout the season.”
Pulliam’s play came in clutch for the Jackets on both sides of the ball, recording two hits, including a double at the plate, and scoring a run in the third.
Si Thomas drove home Pulliam on what ended up being the game-winning hit in the third, a two-run single, one of two hits for the junior infielder.
Pulliam’s final two punchouts came at the top of the seventh inning in a pressure-packed, bases-loaded situation. He walked one batter to load the bases, then struck out Landon Moore and Colin Perrigin to end the game.
“My mindset was just getting ahead of all the batters,” Pulliam said. “Knowing that I was facing the bottom of the lineup and they had been struggling all game. Throughout the game I paid attention to what they can and can’t hit, or where they’re hitting at, and I carried that to the mound so I kind of already had insight on what to do.
“And I trusted my pitching coach, and my catcher, and myself, obviously, to get through that inning.”
While it was a clutch performance from a Jackets perspective, it was a missed opportunity for the Trojans, who threatened late, unable to get the tying run home to score.
“We’re struggling to put balls in play,” Boyd said. “I think we struck out seven or eight times with men in scoring position, so we had opportunities there and we’ve just got to do a better job in all three of those aspects.”
Weather-permitting, Starkville and New Hope will face off again at 7 p.m. Friday. The weather hasn’t been kind to the Jackets to start the season, so they’re hoping clear skies enter the forecast before heading to play at the Battle at the Beach in Biloxi next week.
“The weather hasn’t allowed us to really get in a groove,” Adkins said. “I think this is our first game since last Tuesday. We’ve got a good stretch coming up. We play these guys hopefully again next Friday.
“We’ve got East Webster Saturday, and then we got a travel day to the coast for three more straight games, so I think that’s going to help us get going with more reps.”
If Tuesday’s game has any indication for what is to come later this week between these two teams, then the New Hope crowd will be rocking come first pitch.
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