Loyd Star baseball on to 2A quarterfinals after sweeping past Puckett

Published 3:00 pm Thursday, May 5, 2022

At a point Friday, as Loyd Star faced Puckett in the first game of their MHSAA 2A second round baseball series, it felt like the game was totally up for grabs.

Loyd Star had led 1-0 and then 2-1 and then 3-2 after four complete innings.

Puckett scored three runs in the top of the fifth inning though to go ahead 5-4 and put coach Jared Britt’s team on the ropes for a time.

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The Hornets (22-5-1) responded though, tying the game in the sixth and winning it in the eighth inning on a single by sophomore Caleb Smith that was then mishandled by the Puckett left fielder to give Loyd Star a 6-5 win.

The team ran from the home dugout on Smith Field and mobbed Smith in celebration.

The joy of that night was carried over into the next day as the Hornets finished Puckett off with a 11-1 win in Rankin County.

Britt’s team now moves on to face Stringer High (21-6) in the third round of the playoffs, a series that begins on Friday at Loyd Star with a 6 p.m. first pitch.

Game two will be played at Stringer in Jasper County on Saturday at 7 p.m. If a third and deciding game is needed, Loyd Star will host it on Monday, May 9 at 6 p.m.

Smith’s hit scored Garret Carwyle and came with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Carwyle reached after getting hit by a pitch and then moved up on a sacrifice by Blake Thornton.

In a game with big plays from a variety of Hornets, none had a bigger impact than Carwyle.

The plan coming into the season was for Loyd Star to have a three-man pitching rotation that would be stocked with seniors. That group included Craig Bass, Riley Easterling and Dawson Hester. Easterling and Hester were part of the pitching staff that took LS to the state semifinals last year and Bass was the top relief pitcher on the team.

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry though, and Hester has been limited in his pitching appearances this season due to an issue with his arm.

Thornton and Carwyle have stepped in to fill that pitching gap throughout much of 2022.

On Friday, Bass drew the start and took the hill in the top of the fifth inning with his team up 3-2. Puckett drew a walk to start the inning and then juiced the bases via a double and another walk.

Carwyle came in to pitch with one away and the bases full of Wolves. The first Puckett batter he faced didn’t take the bat off his shoulder as he drew four straight balls to walk in a run. Two more runs scored, but at the time it felt like a win that Carwyle could get his team out of the inning with his team only facing a 5-3 deficit.

A junior, Carwyle picked up the win by pitching 3.2 innings and giving up just one hit and zero earned runs. He struck out two and walked five on 71 pitches.

“I definitely put him in a tough spot, and I know he had some nerves, but he settled in and did what he needed to do to help us get the win,” said Britt. “Our defense played great behind him. Brandon Burt made some great plays in right field and then Puckett would match with a big play of their own. It was momentum turn after momentum turn — but thankfully we had the last at-bat.”

Puckett countered with their ace, Matthew Boszor on the mound in the opener. It was Boszor who pitched Puckett to a 12-5 in the series opener last season when the teams met in a third-round playoff matchup that was ultimately won 2-1 by LS.

In the bottom of the sixth, Smith — he who later hit the game-winner — knocked a line drive to centerfield that went under the glove of the defender. Smith made a wide turn at second and barreled into third base with a headfirst slide right in front of a fired-up home dugout.

A sacrifice fly by junior Casen DeHart scored Smith and tied the game at 5-5.

Boszor lasted into the seventh inning but was replaced by Seth Stevens after throwing 111 pitches on the night. A junior, Boszor gave up four earned runs while striking out six and walking five.

Easterling went 3-of-4 at the plate and drove in one run for Loyd Star on Friday.

In the win on Saturday, Loyd Star scored two in the first, two in the second and seven in the sixth inning to win a run-shortened game.

Easterling pitched six innings and struck out four on 79 pitches. A future Co-Lin baseball player, he gave up one earned run and didn’t walk a batter in the win. Easterling pounded the strike zone by throwing 51 strikes on 79 pitches.

DeHart hit two doubles in the win on Saturday and Hester added one double as well.

Hester and Colby Terrell drove in two runs each in game two while DeHart, Thornton, Smith, Nathan Mills and Burt had a single RBI each in the win.


In other area MHSAA second round action

The 2022 season came to an end in the second round for both Brookhaven High and Enterprise over the weekend.

Vancleave topped BHS 8-3 in game one of their 5A playoff series on Friday on Moyer Field and then wrapped up a trip to the third round with a 10-0 win on Saturday at home.

Brookhaven High and coach Matt White end the season with a 13-7 record.

Ethel took a 12-1 win over Enterprise on Friday in Lincoln County and then finished up the series with a 13-3 win on Saturday in the 1A playoffs.

Enterprise and coach Josh Garrett end the season with a 11-11-1 record.