Petal couldn’t have asked for a better first inning Tuesday against Oak Grove.
Senior starting pitcher Larson Barkurn breezed through the top half of the frame in less than 10 pitches, retiring the Warriors in order.
In the bottom half, the first five players in the Panther batting order reached base safely. The first three came around to score, giving the home team a comfortable cushion against rival Oak Grove.
However, it was all downhill after that. And because of that, Oak Grove came away 10-7 winners, sweeping the season series and clinching the Region 5-6A regular-season title.
But it wasn’t all roses for the Warriors (16-2, 7-0), as they made seven errors in the contest and left 10 men stranded on base.
Somehow, though, they found a way to win.
“It wasn’t a very well-played game, I thought, either way,” Oak Grove head coach Chris McCardle said. “Ain’t much you can say about it. We’ve got guys not used to playing, they’ve got guys pitching who’s not used to pitching, and we’ve got guys pitching who’s not used to pitching, and it just happens that way.
“Just one of those days.”
Petal (12-6, 4-3) head coach Larry Watkins held a lengthy team meeting following the game, and said he felt like his team simply wasn’t focused.
“I’m disappointed,” he said. “We just didn’t compete tonight. We were given plenty of opportunities and we missed out on a lot of chances to score early. Mentally, we just didn’t seem to be in it.”
A sloppy affair through and through, Petal and Oak Grove combined to make nine errors, walk six batters, throw six wild pitches, hit five batters and commit a balk.
After Petal took the 3-0 lead in the first, the Warriors took a 4-3 lead in the top of the second, the big blow a 2-run double from Jansen Bounds.
Oak Grove extended its lead to 5-3 in the third, but the Panthers came back to tie things up, as Levi Brewer and Zach Giacona each scored on errors.
But the Warriors plated four runs in the top of the fourth, three of which scored on wild pitches.
“I didn’t really panic in the first inning,” McCardle said. “Basically, we just wanted to stop the bleeding and come in and start over. We responded good.”
Watkins said he hopes his squad extricated all the bad mojo in Tuesday’s loss.
“I hope they’ll be more focused, because our next game is Hattiesburg (at 6 p.m. Thursday at Pete Taylor Park),” Watkins said. “And if we play like we did tonight, it’ll be the same result.”
The Warriors had four players with two hits apiece, while Garren Berry and Slade Buckley each collected a pair of hits for the Panthers.
Oak Grove returns to action at 6 p.m. Friday at Meridian.