Twice is nice: Fifth-inning double play lifts Rebel League past Petal

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 26, 2003


staff reports

MAGEE &045; With ducks on the pond and one out in the top of the fifth of a four-run ball game, it looked as though Petal was going to shave more off the Natchez Rebel’s 8-4 lead.

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Two runs were already in and Rebel starter Brandon Sanders was feeling the effects of a muggy night.

The Rebels got an unconventional double play from Avery Middleton, who raced over from right to snag a fly ball and throw to second to end the threat, and preserve a lead Natchez eventually turned into a 9-6 victory.

&uot;There was a big controversy afterward on whether the boy tagged up or not,&uot; Natchez Rebel head coach Tom Middleton said. &uot;But he clearly hadn’t. He was almost to third. (Avery Middleton) had to cover a lot of ground. If that ball had dropped in, the game could’ve gone either way.&uot;

The win puts Natchez in the championship game against Pascagoula, who defeated Amory 5-0.

Natchez, who lost 7-2 to Pascagoula earlier Wednesday in a game from Tuesday’s rain, must defeat Pascagoula twice to capture the state championship.

&uot;Pascagoula was putting a hitting clinic on us (Tuesday),&uot; Middleton said. &uot;The rain was a blessing. We held them to a meaningless run (Wednesday). Nobody helped us with any run support against Pascagoula. We didn’t swing the bats.&uot;

The Rebels got four in the first against the Petal Americans when Garrett Smith started things off with a single.

Speedy Hunter Hatcher put runners at first and second when he reached base with a bunt single.

Red-hot, 9-year-old Christopher Perry kept his scorching pace with a single that scored the game’s first two runs.

&uot;He’s having a phenomenal tournament up here,&uot; Middleton said of Perry, who hit homers against Cleveland and Magee earlier in the tournament and was 2 for 3 Wednesday.

&uot;He didn’t hit one out tonight, but everything he hit was hard. I can’t say enough about him. He’s having a tournament of a lifetime.&uot;

Tyler Morrison knocked Perry home to make it 3-0, and then himself score on a past ball for the early 4-0 lead.

After Petal got two back in the top of the second, Natchez again responded with a four spot, this time in its half of the fourth inning.

Morrison, who led things off with a single, scored on a Caleb Upton single to make it a 5-2 Rebel advantage.

Shiloh Atkins followed Upton with one of his two singles on the night. Then, the bases were loaded when Seemes White walked.

Avery Middleton walked to make it 6-2 when Upton crossed home plate, and Atkins put the Rebels up five when he scored on a Jamon Gray fielder’s choice.

&uot;I don’t know how we go from the game against Pascagoula to how we hit (Wednesday),&uot; Middleton said. &uot;We gave everybody a heck of a talk, and we came out stroking (against Petal).&uot;

The final run of the fourth came when James Moffett singled in White from third.

In the fifth, Hatcher again bunted his way on, proceeding to move up a base on a past ball. Again it was Perry who delivered a backbreaking blow when he singled in Hatcher to put the Rebel League up 9-4.

&uot;The Petal pitching was some of the best we’ve seen all tournament,&uot; Middleton said. &uot;We saw much tougher pitching at districts against McComb than overall here. But Petal had good pitching. We just were able to light them up.&uot;

Brandon Sanders picked up the win, going five strong, and Perry closed Petal out in the sixth.