Close loss eliminates Bulldogs

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 21, 2001

The Natchez Bulldogs’ season came to an end Friday night at Chester Willis Field with a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Pascagoula in the first round of the Mississippi High School Athletics Association Class 5A baseball playoffs.

Pascagoula, 23-12, won the best-of-three series two game to none and will take on the winner of the Hattiesburg/Northwest Rankin series.

Natchez finished its season with an 11-9 record, a big improvement over its 8-18 mark of 2000.

&uot;We knew coming in tonight it would be a much different game from last night,&uot; said Pascagoula head coach Johnny Olsen about Thursday’s 11-1 rout by the Panthers.

Olsen’s career coaching record is now 405-172.

Pascagoula’ Justin Rayborn and Natchez’s Brian Kossum each had solid performances on the mound and also got big defensive plays. Rayborn was the winning pitcher, allowing one earned run on nine hits while striking out four and walking only one. He also went 3-for-4 with one run batted in at the plate. Kossum allowed two earned runs on nine hits while striking out three and walking two.

&uot;They played well. This was one the better games Brian pitched,&uot; said Natchez head coach Michael Lindsey. &uot;But it showed a lot of character coming back from the 11-1 loss.&uot;

Pascagoula took a 1-0 in the top of the first inning as Rayborn singled to score Bernard Williams, who started the game with a single. Calvin Jackson hit a one-out single in the bottom of the first, but, in trying to stretch it to a double, was thrown out at second by rightfielder Salvador Aleman.

Pascagoula increased its lead to 2-0 on Trey Clardy’s sacrifice fly that brought in Aleman.

&uot;We hit the ball well, it just didn’t fall for us,&uot; Olsen said. &uot;We just didn’t get the big hits.&uot;

Rayborn didn’t get into any trouble until the bottom of the fourth when Carl Hayes hit a two-out, stand-up triple, but then struck out Kossum.

Natchez put together four hits in the bottom of the fifth, but could only manufacture one run on Jackson’s RBI single, leaving the bases loaded.

The Bulldogs then got back-to-back two-out singles from Nolan Coward and Marques Kinds, but once again the runners were stranded as Rayborn struck out Floyd&160;Newman. Coward and Kinds each went 2-for-3 and Jackson went 2-for-4 to lead Natchez.

&uot;We came in wanting an opportunity to win and we did,&uot; Lindsey said. &uot;We didn’t get the big hits, and they didn’t commit the big error.&uot;

Rightfielder Hayes made an outstanding catch to rob Aleman of a base hit in the top of the seventh that would eventually give Natchez one more chance of a comeback. But it was not meant to be as three straight ground ball outs ended the game and the season for the Bulldogs.

&uot;Justin was throwing his fastball inside and getting them out with the breaking ball,&uot; Olsen said.