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4A MHSAA Baseball Playoffs: Jacob Parker's walk-off hit sends Purvis past Newton County 4-3

The Tornadoes plated three runs in the bottom fo the seventh to steal game one in the best-of-three series
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PURVIS – It was a never-say-die kind of night for Purvis and Newton County Friday night.

Both teams found themselves up against the wall in the seventh inning, and both teams responded. And, because Purvis was the home team and had the last at-bat, it was the Tornadoes whose response was decisive.

The visiting Cougars overcame a 1-0 deficit in the top of the seventh to take a 3-1 lead, but the Tornadoes matched it in the bottom half of the inning. Freshman Jacob Parker’s two-run single with two out gave Purvis a 4-3 walkoff victory at Tony Farlow Field.

The Tornadoes (19-7) took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three Class 4A second-round playoff series. Game 2 is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Decatur. If a third game is needed, it will be back at Purvis on Monday.

More: Updated MHSAA 4A Baseball Playoff Brackets

“That’s a scrappy bunch, Newton County,” said Purvis coach Tony Farlow. “But we got contributions from a lot of guys tonight, and I’m proud of the way we battled back.”

Farlow and his coaching staff stressed through the week that Newton County was much better than its record, which dropped to 10-21, and the Cougars showed it against Purvis.

Newton County got a vintage pitching performance from senior right-hander Tyson Wood, who pitched into the seventh and kept his team in the game despite allowing some hard-hit balls that found their way into the gloves of his defense.

“That’s the best game he’s pitched in his life,” said Newton County coach Jordan Smith. “He’s a senior, and we asked him to fill some big shoes for us. He embraced it and stepped to the plate and did it.

“I’m proud of him, win or lose. He did enough to give us a chance, and that’s all we asked.”

More: Friday night Mississippi baseball scoreboard | MHSAA baseball brackets

Wood relied on a wicked change-up to keep the Tornadoes off-balance, making an 80 mph fastball look much faster than it was.

“I relied a lot on my off-speed pitch,” said Wood. “My arm felt good and my off-speed was working, both my change-up and my curveball. It made them a little tardy on the fastball, and that helped my off-speed as well.”

As good as the Cougar senior was, though, Purvis senior Walker Flatt was equally up to the task, carrying a one-hit shutout until the Cougars roughed him up in the seventh.

“I just kept my head zoned in,” said Flatt. “This is my last year, as a senior, so I kind of had that bulldog mentality out there. I put my grind on, went out there and did my thing.

“When I get my momentum going, it makes me work faster, get ahead of the batters and get quick outs. That’s what I did for the most part.”

Flatt (3-1) gave up a two-out single in the top of the first and a pair of walks in the second, then retired the next 13 batters he faced.

“He was going along pretty good,” said Farlow. “Then they got the hit, a couple of bunt, we throw one away, then they get a big hit. We were kind of fortunate that we didn’t give up any more runs there.”

Purvis staked Flatt to a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Senior Hunter Jackson smacked the first pitch of the inning into centerfield, he took second on a hit batter and scored on Parker’s single up the middle.

“He was throwing really slow, so I was just trying to sit back on the ball and drive something up the middle,” said Parker. “I saw curveballs the whole game; I think I maybe saw one fastball.

“He had a knuckleball that came in at about 50 (mph), so we had to sit back on that, which was tough after we’ve been seeing 90 all year.”

With runners at second and third, the Tornadoes missed a chance to add to their lead when Wood got Flatt to swing at a knuckle-ball for a strikeout to end the inning.

Smith used a rare stratagem against Parker in a leadoff situation in the sixth, bringing on sophomore Cooper Lewis from first base to pitch, and Lewis did his job, getting Parker to pop up, after which Wood returned to the mound.

“It was a left-on-left matchup that we wanted,” said Smith. “And I liked my guy’s stuff to (Parker). That was a move we felt comfortable making.”

Whatever issues Newton County had with Flatt in the first six innings weren’t apparent in the seventh.

Eighth-grader Hayden Amis pulled the first pitch of the inning into rightfield for a single and junior Cade Mangum reached by beating out a sacrifice bunt that died right on the line halfway between home plate and first base to put two runners on.

Lewis also sacrificed, and his bunt went straight to Flatt, who tried to get the lead runner at third. The throw was wide of the base, however, and everyone was safe.

Senior Braxton May then hit a double into the gap in left-centerfield to drive in two runs and a sacrifice fly got another run home.

“They got on me a little bit, got a rally going,” said Flatt. “I just had to work through some things and get myself right again. I was able to get out of it, and my teammates got it done.”

Wood got a strikeout to lead off the bottom of the seventh, but junior Damon Putnam smacked a single up the middle and Jackson drew a walk to start the Tornadoes’ winning rally.

Farlow sent senior Drew Brewer up to pinch-hit for 9-hole hitter Connor Lawler, and Brewer answered the call by hitting a solid single to left, driving in a run.

“He’s had a spot role for us all year,” said Farlow. “He had a big hit for us last Monday in the Stone County series. We’ve got three or four different guys that we can use to pinch-hit and play the DH. He was huge for us tonight.”

Newton County went to its bullpen for sophomore Trent Renfrow, who was greeted by a walk to freshman Jo Jo Parker to load the bases.

Renfrow got a strikeout for the second out, but Jacob Parker wasted no time in putting the first pitch he saw into centerfield. The tying run scored easily, and Lawler, back in the game after Brewer’s heroics, dashed ahead of the throw to the plate for the game-winning run.

“I was just trying to hit the ball hard,” said Parker. “I knew he was going to give me something to hit, and I was ready for it.”

It was a tough-luck outing for Wood, who struck out five and walked just one.

“I lost a little velocity, then we had a ball kicked under the shortstop’s glove into center,” said Wood. “They just got some momentum and took advantage of it. That’s baseball.”

With his team’s season on the line, Smith said he would give the ball to senior left-hander Gatlin Huber, who carried the Cougars past North Pike in the third game of the first round series on Tuesday.

Farlow said Jacob Parker will get the start for the Tornadoes as they look to close out the series and advance to face the winner between Pass Christian and Northeast Jones in the quarterfinal round.

“We kind of flipped them tonight,” said Farlow. “We usually start Jacob and have Walker as the closer, but we went with Walker and didn’t have to use Jacob, so that’s probably who we’ll go with.”