New Hope High School sophomore left-hander Ryan Burt threw seven innings and allowed one unearned run in a 1-0 loss to Vancleave on Wednesday in Game 1 of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A State championship series at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Photo by: Chris Todd/Special to The Dispatch
May 17, 2018 11:03:16 AM
PEARL -- New Hope High School senior catcher Cade Odom had a feeling how his team's baseball game might turn out Wednesday night.
That didn't make the experience any less painful to endure.
"If you look at the scouting report, (Vancleave senior pitcher Bailee Hendon) was as advertised," Odom said. "He did everything we thought he would. He kept each of us off balanced all night. You have to tip your hat. We hadn't been shut out all year. That tells you he was that good."
In a heavyweight pitching matchup, Hendon and sophomore Ryan Burt battled to the final out at Trustmark Park. Vancleave bunched two hits and two errors in the second inning for a 1-0 victory to open the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A State championship series.
The series will resume at 7 p.m. Friday. If New Hope wins that game, the best-of-three series will be decided at a time to be determined Saturday.
"An incredible ballgame," New Hope coach Lee Boyd said. "We knew we would have to be great on the mound and we were. We knew we would have to make some great plays in the field and we did. We knew we had to take advantage of scoring opportunities. We didn't."
On a day that featured two one-run games, including one hat went 10 innings, no pitching matchup stood out like this played in 1 hour, 41 minutes.
Hendon allowed four hits, while Burt allowed six. Both walked two batters, while Hendon hit another. The lone run was unearned.
New Hope senior shortstop Nick Sims made two errors in the second inning. One was on a throw to first base after fielding a ground ball. The other was an errant flip when trying to get a force out at second base.
On this night, the margin for error was small. New Hope exceeded it.
"Nick is one of my best friends on this team," Odom said. "He is going to make the play 99 times out of 100. I think the whole team was a little nervous when the game started. We hadn't played for a state championship in a while. It took a little while to get the nerves settled. I am content with every ground ball being hit to Nick at short because he is that good. We just had a tough inning there."
New Hope (29-6) overcame the inning to complete a defensive masterpiece. Senior center fielder Xavier Harrison made a miraculous catch in center field. Senior first baseman Bryce Braddock had to stretch for two throws in the infield and somehow kept his foot on the bag for critical putouts.
Vancleave (28-7) also helped by being picked off twice and making a mental mistake in the sixth. On the second out of that inning, a base runner left third base when he thought a routine groundout at first had ended the inning. He was tagged out to complete an inning-ending double play.
"Two excellent teams doing battle," Vancleave coach Daniel Best said. "They had a couple of mistakes in the field and we had them on the bases. That doesn't diminish what was happening on the mound."
New Hope had two runners on in an inning twice. In the third, Harrison and Sims had two-out singles. In the fifth, Vancleave's only error and a two-out walk gave the Trojans a chance. Both innings ended with an out from two-hole hitter Tyler Murphy.
"Hendon is a really good pitcher," New Hope coach Lee Boyd said. "He has a plus-fastball and was getting it in there 84-to-85 (mph). He was getting strikes on both his breaking ball and curveball. The scouting report was that he could throw multiples pitches for strikes. We had some chances. Just couldn't get that one hit."
Hendon (12-0) has signed with Jones County Junior College. He has allowed six earned runs in 70 innings. His stock has improved among college coaches with his late-season run to what could be the team's first baseball state championship.
Burt (11-2) held his own.
"Ryan pitched an incredible game," said Odom, his battery mate. "You could tell he wanted this game. He had that look in his eyes. He wanted to be on the mound pitching in our biggest game of the season. He threw a complete game and didn't give up any earned runs. That's doing your job."
Now, New Hope will try to do its job twice. Earlier this season, New Hope lost to Mooreville in the opening game of a three-game series in the second round of the playoffs. That was Burt's only other loss this season.
"It's a three-game series for a reason," Odom said. "The Mooreville loss helped us get our minds right and put us in this position that we are in now. We just have to realize we can't win a state championship Friday night. Instead, we need to come here and just try to win a game."
Boyd dug further back for motivation. New Hope's last state championship in 2014 also involved a loss in Game 1 at Trustmark Park.
"We have done this before. It's not a new situation," Boyd said. "They are going to trot out another signee. (Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College signee Hayden) Robb is the real deal on the mound again. It's going to be a huge challenge, but it's not a task that is too big for this team. We deserve this opportunity."
Robb will match up against junior Payton Springfield. They will be hard pressed to match the drama from the opener.
As one professional scout said seconds after the game went final, "The New Hope pitcher is really good. He won't lose in this stadium again."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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