Natchez High falls to Florence on the road in Region 5-5A opener

Published 12:00 pm Friday, March 25, 2022

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FLORENCE — For the second time this week, Natchez High School’s offense was stymied by outstanding pitching from its opposition. Last Thursday night, it was Florence High School’s duo of Brady Smith and Dawson Weems who kept the Bulldogs in check.

Smith gave up just two hits and struck out 12 batters over five strong innings and Weems came on in relief and struck out two in the top of the sixth inning as the Florence High Eagles defeated Natchez High 11-1 in six innings in the Bulldogs’ MHSAA Region 5-5A opener.

“The score wasn’t an indication of how the game went,” Natchez High head coach Dan Smith said. “Later in the game, youth started kicking in.”

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Trylon Minor singled and later scored what turned out to be the only run for the Bulldogs in the top of the first inning to give them a 1-0 lead. Minor also stole two bases.

Florence took the lead for good with a two-run rally in the bottom of the second inning. Even though that was all the run support that Smith would need, the Eagles kept adding to their lead, taking advantage of several walks and hit batters issued by Bulldogs’ pitching.

The Eagles scored two runs in the bottom of the third inning and three runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a 7-1 lead. They then run-ruled the Bulldogs after plating four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.

“We were in the game early. It was 2-1 in the second inning. Then they scored two runs off walks in the third inning to go up 4-1. Then they scored three in the fourth to go ahead 7-1,” Smith said. “The early part of the game we were playing good. But Florence did what they did. I hope we can do the same on our home field.”

It was a rough outing on the mound for Natchez High. Starting pitcher Skylar Brown was charged with the loss despite holding Florence to just two hits. But it was the inability to find the strike zone that hurt Brown, Jaylin Davis and Cameron Craft.

Brown allowed four runs, all of them earned, walked six batters, hit three batters, threw two wild pitches, and struck out just one in two and two-thirds innings. Davis came on in relief of Brown and gave up three runs, two of them earned, on two hits, one walks and one hit batter while striking out one in one and one-third innings. Craft finished the game and allowed four earned runs on two hits with three walks, two strikeouts and two hit batters in one and one-third innings.

“This was Skylar’s first game pitching (on the varsity team). He’s been pitching on the JV team to get ready for district,” Smith said. “The walks were the difference. And the strikeouts. It goes back to inexperience. All that counts, too.”

Even though the Eagles pulled away starting in the third inning, Smith said he was proud of his team for not giving up.

“They kept fighting to the end. They could have tucked their heads once (Florence) started scoring,” Smith said. “As long as they keep fighting and give 100 percent.”

Both Minor and Jwun Mackey went 1-for-3 to lead the Bulldogs at the plate. Zach Blanton went 1-for-2 with a double and three runs scored while being walked twice and  Javon Johnson was 1-for-3 with a double and one RBI while being walked once to lead the Eagles at the plate.

Peyton McDaniel was 1-for-1, scored two runs and was walked three times. Kannon Griffin was 1-for-3 with one RBI and two runs scored. Brady Smith was 1-for-3 with one RBI and one run scored. Weems went 1-for-3 with three RBIs.

Natchez High (4-5-1, 0-1) play host to Florence at Chester Willis Field with the JV game at 5 p.m., followed by the varsity game at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs then play at Yazoo City High School on Saturday with the JV game at 11 a.m. and the varsity game at 1 p.m.