Five-run sixth-inning propels Panthers past Bulldogs in MHSAA Region 5-5A action

Published 1:27 pm Monday, April 17, 2023

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BROOKHAVEN — Just when it looked like Natchez High School’s varsity baseball team may finally get its first win of the season in MHSAA Region 5-5A, rival Brookhaven High School had other ideas and made sure that would not be the case.

John Wallace had four base hits, including two doubles, and relief pitchers Brayden Wilson and Jake Meilstrup shot down Natchez High’s bats over the last three and one-third innings to lead the Brookhaven High Panthers to a 14-7 win over the Natchez High Bulldogs last Friday afternoon.

“We played a good game. We just had a couple of key errors that hurt us,” Bulldogs head coach Dan Smith. “We had one error that hurt us in the bottom of the sixth.”

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Even though Brookhaven starting pitcher Elijah Calcote was credited with the win on the mound for the Panthers, he did get into some trouble in the top of the fourth inning after holding the Bulldogs to just two runs over the first three innings. That’s when Natchez High struck for three runs to tie the game at 5-all.

Calcote allowed five runs, three of them earned, on four hits with eight strikeouts, six walks, and one hit batter.

“Looking at the box score, we won everything but runs and hits. Overall, we’re getting better by the game,” Smith said.

But the Panthers took away what momentum the Bulldogs had just as quickly as the home team responded with a three-run rally of its own in the bottom of the fourth to re-take the lead at 8-5. And it was pretty much all Brookhaven from that point on thanks to one run in the bottom of the fifth and five runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 14-5 advantage.

That one error that Smith referred to was when the Bulldogs had a chance to turn a double play and get out of the inning. They were able to get the first out, but not the second one and turned out to hurt Natchez High and help Brookhaven a lot.

“That gave them another life in the inning. They scored three or four runs (after the error) and that put the game away for them,” Smith said. “Prior to that, it was a good game between the two teams. A couple of mental mistakes kind of put us behind.”

Wallace led the Panthers’ 12-hit attack by going 4-for-5 with two doubles, two runs batted in, and two runs scored. Meilstrup helped his cause with a triple while Jacob Rushing went 2-for-3 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored. Demetricus Andrew Nelson II was 2-for-3 with one RBI and one run scored while Walker Moak was 2-for-4 with a double, one RBI and two runs scored.

Natchez High tried to mount one last rally in the top of the seventh, but could only manage two runs off Wilson before Meilstrup came in and got the final two outs.

Wilson gave up two runs, one of them earned, on two hits with four strikeouts, two walks, and one hit batter in two and two-third innings. Meilstrup gave up nothing in his two-thirds of an inning.

Even though Natchez High committed just one error and Brookhaven High finished with six errors, the Bulldogs were not able to take advantage of those unexpected miscues by a good Panthers team. And that was something else that frustrated Smith during the game.

“That’s what happens when you have a young team,” Smith said. “We left nine on base. A couple times they committed those errors, we weren’t able to capitalize on them. That’s something we’ll learn from and build on.”

Jaylin Davis was charged with the loss after giving up 10 runs, nine of them earned, on nine hits with three strikeouts, six walks, and three hit batters. He also went 1-for-3 a double, two RBIs and one run score at the plate. The Bulldogs were led by Kameron Carter, who was 2-for-3 with one run scored.

Natchez High (9-13, 0-7) played host to rival Port Gibson High School for Senior Night at Chester Willis Field last Monday with the JV game at 5 p.m., followed by the varsity game at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs were scheduled to host Region 5-5A foe West Jones High School last Tuesday, but Smith said because Cathedral High School has a home game that late afternoon, the varsity doubleheader may be played on Wednesday at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., but it may be cancelled altogether.

“It doesn’t have any bearing on the standings for either of us. They won (Region 5-5A) and we’re not in the playoffs,” Smith said. “The regular season is supposed to end on Tuesday.”