New Hope’s baseball team celebrates after a 10-4 victory over Pontotoc Monday in the Class 4A North State final. Photo by: Slim Smith/Dispatch Staff
May 14, 2019 9:52:11 AM
By Slim Smith
PONTOTOC - Ever since Ryan Burt's hard-luck 1-0 loss to Vancleave in last year's state championship series, New Hope coach Lee Boyd has been waiting for his pitcher to take the next step.
That moment may have arrived Monday during the Trojan's North State clinching 10-4 win over Pontotoc, though Burt's final pitching line - four runs off five hits in six-plus innings -- wouldn't suggest it.
But it was especially the junior left-hander's six full innings of work that captured Boyd's attention.
"For six innings, he was dominant," Boyd said. "It's not like he's been bad. This was his seventh win. But tonight, well, it just felt like he's picking up for us at the right time."
Relying on his change-up early and his curveball late, Burt improved to 7-1 as New Hope swept the series against Pontotoc and now advances to its second straight Mississippi Class 4-A championship series.
The Trojans (25-5) will face either Sumrall or West Lauderdale in Game 1 of a three-game series at Trustmark Park in Pearl. The schedule had yet to be determined Monday: Game 1 will be played either Wednesday or Thursday.
Burt feels he has some momentum going into the state championship series.
"It's the best I pitched this year, for sure," Burt said. "I started off the year with an injury and it was a slow start from there. It felt like I'd been working uphill ever since. It's nice to get this feeling again."
Burt struck out five and walked just one and was working on a no-hitter until Pontotoc's Hayden Harris singled sharply past second base with two down in the sixth.
By then, the Trojans had built a 6-0 lead, paced by a three-run homer by senior right-fielder Tyler Murphy in the top of the sixth inning.
"The big three-run bomb really was the turning point in the game, I thought," Boyd said. "That was a huge swing by Murphy there that really gave us a little breathing room."
Burt said he could sense the momentum shift when Murphy ripped a fastball over the left-field fence.
"We had the bases loaded, like three times before that," Burt said. "We were just waiting for that big hit to bust it open. That was the one hit that we felt like, 'We've got it.'" That really got our offense going."
Four more Trojans' runs in the seventh proved to be more than cosmetic, as it turned out.
Burt was greeted by four straight hits to lead off the bottom of the seventh as Pontotoc tried to stage its improbable comeback. Two singles, a two-run double and a two-run homer chased Burt.
"I really wanted to give him a chance to finish the game," Boyd said. "I still thought his stuff was the same as it had been. But I guess the fourth time through the lineup, they had him figured out a little bit. I knew I needed to make the switch and Payton (Springfield) came in and did a wonderful job there to close it out."
For the game, the Trojans collected 12 hits - 11 singles and Murphy's big blast.
Boyd said he was particularly pleased to see the bottom of the order produce.
The Nos. 8 and 9 batters - Presley Hall and Drew Brown - had three hits between them.
"I thought Hall put together some good at-bats in the 8 hole and Brown, it's funny," Boyd said. "He hasn't hit a ton for us this year, but in the last game against Amory, I think he had three hits and then he got two more tonight. He's making a push to get into the lineup full-time."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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