Petal shortstop Jacob Hiatt wants to make a believer of the powers that be in the Mississippi High School Activities Association.
Prior to Monday night’s Class 6A playoff game, the association’s website had prematurely listed Harrison Central as having already advanced past the Panthers. That wasn’t the case.
Instead, Hiatt delivered a dramatic, seventh-inning, two-run home run that lifted Petal (24-7) to a 4-3 victory which evens the best-of-three series at one win apiece.
The Red Rebels (23-3) took the opening game from the Panthers, 4-3, in 14 innings on Saturday.
Hiatt welcomed Red Rebel relief pitcher Chris Crosby into the game by crushing a belt-high fastball over the left-centerfield fence.
“It’s two even teams,” Red Rebels coach Pat Olmi said after seeing his team’s 17-game win streak end. “At key times in the game, we didn’t hit the ball when we needed.”
Winning pitcher Larson Barkurn led off the seventh with a double, chasing Red Rebel starter Reagan Wease. Petal coach Larry Watkins thought it was fitting he was on for Hiatt’s blast.
“Larson threw great. He battled all night. They have a good team over there,” he said. “Every out is big and the biggest was the last one — the one we couldn’t get on Saturday.”
Barkurn gave up six hits and struck out five in the complete-game performance. He retired seven straight batters before hitting Bobby Bradley with a pitch with two out in the seventh.
Each team scored in the first inning in dramatically different fashion. Petal scratched out its run on three hits off Wease, starting with Trevor Williams’ bloop single into left-center field. With two out, Levi Brewer hit a slow roller up the middle that eluded Wease, as well as shortstop Bryant Johnston and second baseman Derrick Mount. That scored Williams, giving the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
But the lead was short-lived.
Mount led off the Harrison Central first by blasting a 1-2 delivery from Barkurn over the fence in left-center to tie the game. Later, Mount created more offense for the Red Rebels with an RBI double that scored Luis Colon. Two batters later, James Land delivered a single to score Mount and give the Red Rebels a 3-1 lead.
In the fifth, Brewer made the Red Rebels pay with a triple, driving in his second run of the game, scoring Hiatt and cutting the Red Rebels’ lead to 3-2.
That was the way it stood until Hiatt’s blast gave the Panthers new life.
Petal and Harrison Central square off again in the series-deciding game at 5 p.m. today at Harrison Central.