Late game loss to Stone High sidelines Natchez

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, April 23, 2019

By TIM GUERCIO

THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT

NATCHEZ— The Natchez High Bulldogs’ playoff run ended Monday afternoon after the Stone High Tomcats pulled off a 7-6 comeback win at Chester Willis Field.

Senior Paul Hargrave Jr. was the starting pitcher for the Bulldogs as he looked to win and extend his high school career on the diamond.

The southpaw plans to go to Co-Lin in the fall to study and pursue football.

Hargrave was dealing on the mound where he saw only seven batters for the first two innings.

“Hargrave kept us off balance the whole game,” said Sean Miller, Stone High head coach. “He threw a lot of first pitch strikes.”

The Bulldogs did get to the Tomcats starter Gehrig Conard early.

In the bottom of the second up 1-0 the Bulldogs tacked on 5 more runs with 2 walks and 4 singles to make the score 6-0 Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs showed signs of leaking oil, however, in the top of the third as the Tomcats sent all nine players to the plate.

The Bulldogs defense got Hargrave out of a bases loaded jam as the Tomcats were held to only 3 runs scored.

In the fourth inning D.K. McGruder found out why they call third base the hot corner.

He had three hot ground balls smoked right at him.

He gathered up all three and was over to first base with them in plenty of time.

The Bulldogs met a new pitcher in the fourth when Alec Hardy came in for Stone.

He brought in a fresh arm and a chance to shut out Natchez High in hopes of advancing in the playoffs.

Hardy was able to shut out the Bulldogs from here, but the Tomcats were still down 6-4 to the Bulldogs, going to their last at-bat.

The Tomcats needed to score more runs to advance, and they did.

With the pitch-count rule at 120 pitches for the game, Hargrave could not come out to the mound for the last inning.

“He was at 118 pitches for the game, so he couldn’t go back out there,” said Dan Smith, Bulldog head coach, referring to a rule limiting the number of pitches high school pitchers can throw per game to prevent injury.

Eighth-grader Trey Minor, who was good enough to make the high school team, went to the mound for Natchez High.

A single and a double by Stone High along with some throwing errors in the field, and some walks at the plate enabled Stone to take the lead 7-6.

In the bottom of the seventh, the last inning, the Bulldogs couldn’t pull the game out and it ended with Stone High advancing in the playoffs, with the score 7-6.

Only two seniors and two juniors are on the young Natchez High ball team.

Hargrave and Jamel Myles are the seniors.

Minor, the eighth grader, and freshman starting catcher Rodrick Simpson will be back for a few years.

“We have a real young team, and I’m very proud of them,” Smith said.