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Cathedral struggles at plate, grinds out playoff victory

Cathedral High School’s Conner Branton and Sacred Heart High School’s Gary Heathcock fall to the ground after a collision at home plate in which Branton was called safe because Heathcock dropped the ball during the third round of the MHSAA Class A state baseball tournament Tuesday. Cathedral won the game 6-3. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Cathedral High School’s Conner Branton and Sacred Heart High School’s Gary Heathcock fall to the ground after a collision at home plate in which Branton was called safe because Heathcock dropped the ball during the third round of the MHSAA Class A state baseball tournament Tuesday. Cathedral won the game 6-3. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Despite collecting only three hits, the (20-3) Cathedral Green Wave defeated Sacred Heart 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the MHSAA Class A playoffs.

Five errors committed by Sacred Heart along with a strong outing by starting pitcher Quinton Logan helped the Green Wave go up 1-0 in the third-round series. And while a win is a win at this stage in the playoffs, Cathedral head coach Craig Beesley had mixed feelings about the victory.

“It just doesn’t feel like we’ve hit that stride where we did last year in the playoffs,” Beesley said. “We’re still winning, and that’s good, but I really want to see us take control of the games and swing the bats better and produce more runs at the plate.”

After fighting tendinitis in his elbow for the past couple of weeks, Logan was a game-time decision for Cathedral. After warming up minutes before the game, Logan told Beesley that he was good to go.

Logan struck out nine batters in the first five innings before running into trouble in the sixth. Following a leadoff walk with Cathedral leading 4-1, Sacred Heart’s Matthew Gallardo recorded his third double of the game to put runners on second and third with no outs. Back-to-back RBI singles scored two runs to bring the game within one run. With a 4-3 lead and runners on second and third with one out, Beesley elected to keep Logan in the game. Logan, who had seen only an inning or two since injuring his elbow, was battling fatigue.

“I was just telling myself, ‘Just be a dog,’” Logan said. “It just felt good being back on the field, though.”

Logan struck the next two batters out to end both the inning and his outing. Logan gave up five hits, walked five and struck out 11 in six innings pitched.

“He went out there and he had some good pitch sequences in the game,” Beesley said. “He got behind on the count at times tonight, but he hasn’t pitched in an actual live game in about a week and a half. His legs got tired a little earlier than normal.”

Because the bats couldn’t get going, Cathedral played small ball, bunting over runners and running the bases aggressively.

Cathedral scored its first run in the second after a throwing error on the pitcher scored pinch runner Conner Branton. An RBI double by Gabe Smith gave Cathedral the early 2-0 lead.

Cathedral scored another run in the third after Brock Farmer hit an RBI infield grounder, scoring Pate Shirley after his leadoff triple. Craig Bradley scored JJ Jenkins in the fifth inning on a sacrifice fly, and Brock Farmer scored Shirley on an RBI single after back-to-back errors put Cathedral runners on.

Beesley said he was happy his team was able to adapt and play small ball, but he would like to see better production at the plate moving forward.

“We had some pretty good swings tonight, but we hit it right to people and we got under a lot of them,” Beesley said. “I see good things at the plate at times, and other times I get disappointed in our swings. I keep waiting for us to breakout, because I know we have it in us. It feels like we’re just easing through the playoffs right now, rather than taking control of each game.”

The second game of the series between Sacred Heart and Cathedral will be played at 6 p.m. Thursday at Purvis High School.