Hood handcuffs Loyd Star

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, May 3, 2005

GULFPORT — The sound of St. John pitcher John Payton Hood’sfastball meeting catcher Jordan Salloum’s mitt was almost as loudMonday as the planes descending over Herbert Wilson Field forlanding at nearby Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport.

But young Mr. Hood knows someone much higher in the sky iswatching over him. The senior right-hander threw a complete gamesix-hitter, striking out 10, as the Eagles defeated Loyd Star 7-2on Monday.

With the victory, St. John (20-9) completed a sweep of thebest-of-3 second-round baseball series and advanced to the Class 2ASouth State finals, beginning Saturday, against Philadelphia.Philadelphia swept North Forrest. winning 17-7.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Hood also helped the Eagles with his bat, drilling a two-runsingle in the bottom of the first inning.

“I played this game for my dad who is recently deceased,” Hoodsaid. “I thought about him and dug down and got it done.”

John Payton’s father Billy, a Coast attorney, passed away lastmonth.

The Hornets (20-10) were plagued by untimely miscues on defense.St. John scored three runs off catcher Tyler Willifort’s throws tosecond and third base that were misplayed into outfield blunders.To say it was the Bad News Bears would be too harsh but it wasn’tpretty. The Eagles also scored twice on fielders’ choices.

“Once you get to this level of the playoffs, you’ve got to havebreaks,” St. John coach Joe Sam Owen said. “You can’t win everygame with the bats. What breaks you get defensively from the otherteam you need to capatilize on.”

One of the fews mistakes Hood made all day was one he couldsmile about after the game.

With Loyd Star’s Patrick Holcomb at third base, Hood simplydropped the ball, balking Holcomb home.

“I was twirling the ball around behind my back which I’m notsuppossed to do,” he said. “When I dropped it, I kind of juststared at it for a while.”

The Eagles are now one step closer to Jackson’s Smith-WillsStadium and playing for a Class 2A state championship.

“We figured if we got out of that mini-tournament (regional)last week, we might have a chance,” Owen said. “The ’04 championEnterprise (Clarke) was there, the ’03 champion Seminary was therealong with a solid Lumberton program.”

Owen also admires the mental toughness that Hood has shown inrecent weeks.

“You lose your father your senior year, it’s difficult. It’s anemotional time. His father was a big supporter at all the games andfunctions.”