Florence blows past Natchez

Published 11:57 am Wednesday, April 12, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Two and a half weeks after Natchez High School last faced off with Florence High School in MHSAA Region 5-5A action, the results ended up being just the same as they were back in late March — the Eagles took it to the Bulldogs.

Last Tuesday night at Chester Willis Field, Florence got a home run from Reise Thomas while also taking advantage of 16 walks by Natchez High pitching and four errors as the Eagles defeated the Bulldogs 18-4 in just five innings.

Natchez High head coach Dan Smith said his team didn’t play all that bad. But it was the walks by starting pitcher Traylon Minor and relief pitchers Kameron Carter and Skylar Brown that did in the Bulldogs as they remain winless in region play this season.

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“My kids played okay. Our pitchers combined for 16 walks. That put us in a bind,” Smith said. “In baseball, walks and errors will kill you, especially against a good team. If we were limited in the walks, it would’ve been a closer game.”

The Eagles jumped on Minor in each of the first four innings. They scored four runs in the top of the first inning, three more runs in the top of the second innings, and two runs each in the top of the third and fourth innings.

Minor lasted just three and two-thirds innings and gave up 11 runs, seven of them earned, on seven hits with three strikeouts, eight walks, and two hit batters.

Meanwhile, Florence starting pitcher Ace McCulluum had his way with Natchez High’s bats throughout the game. He allowed four runs, three of them earned, on seven hits while striking out eight batters and walking only two over five innings.

The Bulldogs scored one run off McCulluum in the bottom of the second inning to trail 7-1 and one run in the bottom of the fourth to make it an 11-2 game.

“We hit the ball well. They had eight hits and we had seven. They’re improving every game,” Smith said. “Tray pitched a good game. The score didn’t indicate how close the game was. But when you’re in 5A baseball, with the (region) we’re in, the margin for error is very thin.”

Florence put the game away with a seven-run barrage in the top of the fifth inning for a commanding 18-2 lead. Natchez High tried to keep the game alive, but managed just two runs in the bottom of the fifth.

Jaylin Neal led the Bulldogs at the plate, going 2-for-2 with one run batted in and one run scored. Carter was 1-for-3 with one RBI and one run scored while on the mound he gave up seven runs, all of them earned, on six walks and two hit batters even though he did not give up any base hits in two-thirds of an inning.

Jaylin Davis was 1-for-3 with one RBI and one run scored while Koren Harris was 1-for-3 with one RBI. Minor was 1-for-1, was walked twice, and scored one run. Jwun Mackey was 1-for-3.

The Eagles were led at the plate by Thomas, who went 2-for-2 with his home run, four RBIs and four runs scored while also being walked twice and hit by a pitch once, and Andrew Woods, who was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Brady Smith had a double.

Natchez High (9-12, 0-6) next plays at Brookhaven High School for a varsity-only game at 6 p.m.