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Loyd Star takes game one in 2A title series

PEARL — Junior pitcher Cade Hodges of Loyd Star has now pitched 16 straight scoreless innings of baseball.

The junior has been the workhorse of the pitching rotation all season for Loyd Star and the train kept rolling Wednesday afternoon in their 4-0 win over East Union in game one of the 2A state championship.

Hodges struggled with his command and his pitch count got high in the first two innings, but settled down after that and took control of the Urchins the rest of the game.

He finished the game throwing all seven innings, giving up no runs on two hits, three walks and striking out 13 batters on 112 pitches.

“Anybody that knows Cade and his pitching knows that he starts slow,” Loyd Star head coach Jared Britt said. “He’s going to throw a lot of pitches and he’ll get into a groove. I didn’t have to tell him anything. He’s been in this spot before and he understands it. He knows how to pitch and he did that today.”

“My slider was really working well today. It was a good out pitch for me,” Hodges said. “My fastball was keeping them off balance too.”

Behind Hodges on the mound and three late runs in the top of the seventh inning, the Loyd Star Hornets grabbed the 1-0 series lead over East Union. A win Friday night will give Loyd Star their first state title in 37 years.

This is a new position for Britt and the Hornets. Last year in the state championship series, Loyd Star could not defeat East Union, but have turned the page and are ready for new fortunes.

“It seems so close and it seems so far at the same time,” Britt said. “We haven’t been in this situation before, but the kids know what to expect because of last year. We’ve been to Trustmark and we know what to expect. We just need one more. That’s what we’ve been preaching all year. Just one win.”

It was a pitchers’ duel to start the game off between Hodges and East Union sophomore Joel Wilkinson. Both pitchers kept the game scoreless until the top of the fourth inning, where Loyd Star got on the board.

After a leadoff triple from sophomore James Beard, Hodges hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Beard to take the 1-0 lead.

With the bases loaded in the top of the seventh, junior Dylan Smith ripped an RBI single to center field to increase the Loyd Star lead at 2-0. Sophomore Dane Smith followed up smashing the ball towards the East Union shortstop that took a bad hop past him to score two more runs and made it 4-0 Loyd Star.

Beard has been swinging the bat well for the Hornets and led Loyd Star at the plate going 2-for-3 including his triple in the fourth. Dane Smith had two RBIs for the Hornets. Hodges and Dylan Smith each had one RBI as well.

“Cade and James both had good days at the plate,” Britt said. “They had really good approaches and they set the tone for other guys. Without those guys at the plate, we wouldn’t have been able to get the win.”

Hodges pitched in the state title series last year against East Union and admitted he was nervous and it got in his head.

This time, it’s a new story and his performance has Loyd Star one win away, just like Coach Britt has been preaching all season long.

“Last year, I came in and I was kind of nervous since I’ve never been there before in a big situation,” Hodges said. “This year, I’m a lot more relaxed and now we’re one win away.”