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Griffin Dennis, Pearl Pirates break out bats in 9-3 playoff win over Hancock

Dewitt hit a two-run bomb and Dalton Neely went the distance on the mound for the Pirates

PEARL — Pearl didn’t come into the 2022 playoffs known as a home run-hitting team.

Well, they may be after Friday night.

Behind a big inning and a pair of homers, the Pirates got past Hancock 9-3 in Game 1 of their MHSAA First Round Class 6A Baseball playoff series at Pirate Park.

Game 2 of the series is set for 6 p.m. Saturday night at Hancock. If necessary, Game 3 will be back at Pearl at 6 p.m. Monday night.

“We scored every inning, and it’s tough to lose when you do that, and it constantly puts pressure on the other team,” Pearl coach Brian Jones said. “We hadn’t hit home runs all year and we hit two tonight. They jumped out on us, but we kept answering and we put a couple zeros up on the board and we finally settled down and made plays.”

The Hawks struck first, as Peyton DeWitt hit a two-run homer to right center to give Hancock a 2-0 lead in the top of the first.

Pearl cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the inning when Tanner Moore scored on a wild pitch.

The Hawks answered in the top of the second, scratching a run across on a fielder’s choice to extend their lead to 3-1.

The Pirates cut the lead down to 3-2 in the bottom of the second on an RBI single by John Mark Grissom.

Pearl then scored four runs in the bottom of the third, highlighted by a two-run home run to left by Griffin Dennis to take a 5-3 lead.

Fischer Reed added a solo homer to right center to extend the Pearl lead to 6-3 in the fourth.

The Pirates (17-9) added runs in the fifth and sixth to extend their lead to 9-3, both runs were scored off throwing errors.

“We’ve struggled at the plate, and give our guy’s credit — they battled tonight and competed and now feeling some confidence,” Jones said. “Dalton is a heavy sinker guy and relies on movement, but he’s got a lot of experience and adjusted and worked through it. We’ve been here before and now we have to go on the road and handle business. We know where we’re at.”

Dalton Neely (7-3) got the win on mound for Pearl, tossing a complete game and giving up seven hits, three runs (two earned), walked none and struck out three.

“Fastball wasn’t running to start the game and breaking ball wasn’t there until after the second inning, but after that everything started coming through,” Neely said. “They can swing it, but we came out swinging and scored in every inning. That was huge.”

DeWitt had two hits to lead the Hawks (12-17) offensively. Brandon King (3-6) took the loss on the mound for Hancock.

“We started out hot swinging the bat, but they scored run in every inning, and we kept putting ourselves in bad spots,” said Hancock coach Anthony DeWitt. “We didn’t do a good job of responding and they did a great job of putting pressure on us. Now our goal is to get back here Monday.”