Thursday, May 11, 2005

Game one thriller
   • Indians use bunt to beat Senatobia

Sports Editor

Brandon Byars admitted he was a bit nervous, but he said his team needed him to produce.

Byars laid down the game-winning squeeze bunt with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the seventh Saturday afternoon. Byhalia, playing at home, took game one of its state semi-final baseball series, 3-2, over Senatobia.

“I was kind of nervous,” said Byars, shortly after getting mobbed on the field by his fellow Indians, “but my team was depending on my bunt getting down so we could score the winning run.”

Tyson McAlexander, who had earlier singled, slid across the plate safely on his teammate’s perfect bunt down the first base line.

“I knew it would be harder for them to field the ball if I got it toward first,” Byars said.

Head coach Bubba Brown said he was confident in Byars.

“I just wanted him to get it on the ground somewhere, except to the pitcher,” Brown said.

The best two-of-three series moved to Senatobia on Monday afternoon (see the first section of this week’s newspaper for the result). If a third game is needed, it will be played back in Byhalia on either Wednesday or Thursday of this week.

The North Half survivor moves on to Jackson for the Class 3A state championship matchup against either Purvis or West Lauderdale from the South. Purvis won game one Saturday, 7-6.

Pitching ace Corey Parker again opened for Byhalia against Senatobia in game one and went the distance. It was three up and three down in the top of the first for Parker. The starting pitcher for the Warriors, Taylor Walker, returned the favor and didn’t allow any Indian to reach first. After two complete innings neither team had made it to first.

This was fast turning into a pitching duel between Parker and Walker.

Senatobia broke through in the top of the third inning with one run. With two outs, the Warriors advanced Ryan Roberson to third, and Walker sent him to the plate on a double.

Byhalia’s bats caught fire in the bottom of the fourth. Parker and Courtney Hardaway had doubles and Corey Deberry and Justin Rose singles, as the Indians plated two runs to take the lead.

“Walker is a tough pitcher,” Coach Brown said. “We didn’t hit consistently, but we hit him in the clutch. We put three or four hits together.

“I expected a low-scoring game and a tight game. These are two good teams.”

The Indians had some more chances. They had a runner thrown out at third base later in the fourth and two more were nailed at third in the fifth.

“Other than that, we played pretty good,” Brown said.

The fifth and sixth innings were scoreless, setting up the dramatic seventh with Byhalia up 2-1.

The Warriors produced a clutch, run-scoring hit with two outs in the top of the seventh to knot the score.

The visitors tried to score the go-ahead run on a Parker pitch that got by catcher Montrell Hardaway. However, Hardaway quickly got to the ball and flipped it to Parker, who covered home and tagged the sliding Warrior for the third out in the inning.

In the bottom of the seventh, McAlexander singled with one out to give the Indians momentum. M. Hardaway followed with a single, and Jeremy Lucas walked to load the bases.

That’s when Byars came through in the clutch with the bunt.

“This feels good,” Byars said. “It was a team effort.”

The Indians had nine hits in the victory – led by M. Hardaway’s two singles and a double. Byars had two singles, and Parker and Hardaway each had a double. Getting a single each were Dee Moore, Deberry, Rose and McAlexander.

Parker struck out eight, gave up only three hits and walked four.

“We tried throwing more junk,” Brown said. “They started catching up with his fast ball.”

Byhalia improved to 6-0 in the state playoffs and 19-8 on the season. Senatobia fell to 19-9,

The 2005 state championship matchups in all classifications will be played at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson. The first game of the Class 3A best-of-three series will be Saturday, May 14, at 12 noon. Game two will follow Tuesday, May 17, at 1 p.m. Dates and times of a third game, if needed, are tentative.

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