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Despite loss, NHS coach says playoffs were good for young players

Natchez High School catcher Dalvion Jackson, right, leaps into the air in an attempt to catch the throw as Petal base runner Garren Berry slides safely into home plate at Chester Willis Field on Saturday afternoon. NHS lost, 19-0. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Natchez High School catcher Dalvion Jackson, right, leaps into the air in an attempt to catch the throw as Petal base runner Garren Berry slides safely into home plate at Chester Willis Field on Saturday afternoon. NHS lost, 19-0. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — The score wasn’t the most important thing for the Natchez High School baseball team Saturday afternoon.

Though the Bulldogs’ season ended with a rough 19-0 loss to Petal High School in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association South State playoffs, head coach Brian Kossum said the game was all about experience.

With four seniors gone on a senior trip in Orlando, Fla., the Bulldogs relied mostly on underclassmen — including several middle schoolers — to field a team against a Petal squad that completely outmatched NHS.

“I think it’s extremely important (for the younger players),” Kossum said. “That’s playoff baseball, and that’s good experience to get.”

Freshman Travez Lyles started the game for the Bulldogs and took the loss, yielding 10 runs — seven earned — on one hit and six walks in two innings of work. He was relieved by seventh grader Chris Scott, who surrendered nine runs on five hits with one walk in two innings pitched. Both Lyles and Scott had one strikeout apiece.

Natchez High School base runner Shovake Herrington, right, loses his helmet while evading the tag of Petal High School infielder Levi Brewer while advancing to second base during the game at Chester Willis Field on Saturday afternoon. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Natchez High School base runner Shovake Herrington, right, loses his helmet while evading the tag of Petal High School infielder Levi Brewer while advancing to second base during the game at Chester Willis Field on Saturday afternoon. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

Though the afternoon was rough for the both of them, Kossum said he was impressed with his young pitchers’ abilities to stay collected on the mound even they were getting hit hard.

“We really see a lot in Travez, and Chris as well,” Kossum said. “They’re both tall, big-framed kids that are young, can throw hard and have a lot of movement, and we see a lot of potential in them. To come out here and see them battle against a team that was better than them and not get down and keep fighting, that was huge. That’s what we want.”

Kyle Smith scored Petal’s first run on a fielder’s choice in the top of the first inning. The dam began to crack for NHS when Petal added five runs in the top of the second to take a 6-0 lead. Garren Berry and Jalen Boney both scored on fielders choices, and Slade Buckley came home on a balk. Zach Giacona took home on a wild pitch, and Smith scored on a passed ball.

Petal extended its lead to 13-0 in the top of the third inning, beginning with Berry coming in on a bases-loaded walk by Giancona. A single by Kye Broom plated Boney and Buckley, and Giancona scored on an error. Two more runs scored on a wild pitch and a balk, and a double by Berry to send home Tristan Labove capped off the inning.

The Panthers made it 19-0 in the top of the fourth, and NHS was shut out in the bottom half of the frame to force the 13-runs-after-four mercy rule.

Berry finished 2-for-4 for Petal, while Broom went 2-for-3. Levi Brewer had a double for the Panthers. No one for NHS had more than one hit, but Jarell Morris was able to tally a double.

Larson Barkurn got the win, going three innings and giving up just two hits to go along with three strikeouts. Drew Smith pitched the fourth inning for the Panthers, giving up a hit and getting a strikeout.

With the season done, Kossum said he’s happy with what the team accomplished but also said there’s more work to be done.

“We still have to go back and pay attention to the little things, but there’s something here,” Kossum said. “The kids, they want to fight, they want to battle, they don’t quit on me and they don’t quit on themselves. I think we have an opportunity to be a really good program over the next few years.”

NHS finished its season 6-14.

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