Massengale shines, Sumrall prevails over Petal in battle of champs
March 9, 2012Sumrall High School
By JOSH MLOT
There were questions, there were nerves and then there was Chandler Massengale.
Amid questions of what a Sumrall squad gutted by graduation could possibly look like, junior pitcher Massengale, in his first career varsity start, put together a gritty effort to shut down Petal in a battle of 2011 champions on the season’s opening night on Friday at Panther Field.
Massengale (1-0) threw a complete game, allowing the Panthers only three hits while striking out seven and walking no one. Petal, on the other hand, walked 10 Bobcat betters, including four in a four-run sixth inning that broke open a tight game.
“That’s probably the most walks that we’ve given up in a while,” Petal head coach Larry Watkins said. “The name of the game is you’ve got to throw strikes. That was the difference in this game. (Massengale) threw strikes, and he threw different pitches for strikes. Early in the year and he threw extremely well.”
The only run Massengale gave up came on a Garren Baerry double into right field in the fourth frame, scoring Anthony Alford, who had reached on a scorching line drive off Sumrall shortstop Harvey Knight.
“Nervous, for sure,” Massengale said of his emotions going into a game against the two-time defending 6A champs. “But my confidence was there, it had to be. I had confidence in my team. Everybody (doubted us) and we had to come out and show that we had a chance and that we’re going to come this season ready to play.
“(The win is) a big confidence boost, I would say. I think our fans will realize that we’re not just underdogs and we came out here to win.”
The Bobcats took a 1-0 advantage in the top of the third on a Will Simon knock up the middle. The hit scored Zach Jones, the team’s lone returning starter, who, yes, reached on a leadoff walk.
Petal drew back even on Berry’s hit, but then trouble came. Freshman reliever Tristan Labove had an impressive start on the mound in his debut, sitting Sumrall down in order, including two Ks, in the top of the fifth. But in the sixth inning he labored, walking Joseph McLaurin to start the inning and then surrendering a single to Massengale. Another base-on-balls to Devontae Watts — who walked three times in four plate appearances — loaded the bases, and a third walk of the inning for Labove to Skylar Flowers pushed the go-ahead run across the plate.
Sophomore Drew Smith came on in relief, but even after a strikeout for the second out of the frame, another walk, this time to Justin Freeman, ushered in another run and a 5-1 lead for the visiting Bobcats.
“We had a freshman (Labove) out there and he had a good inning right before,” Watkins said. “It’s just a game where you’ve got to learn to keep your focus. They’ll get better. We’ll just have to weather it and keep going.
“We’ve got to have some young pitchers grow up fast. We’ll have to keep putting them out there and get them some experience; find out who can do it in tough situations and who can’t.”
Labove (0-1) took the loss after 1 1-3 innings of work in which he gave up four earned runs on one hit, with two strikeouts and three walks.
Larson Barkurn, the starter for Petal, lasted four innings before giving way to Labove. He gave up one run on one hit, with five strikeouts and five walks.
The winning run was scored by McLaurin, who, ironically, wouldn’t have even been in the game if starting left fielder and three-hitter Holt Gammel hadn’t gotten injured. Gammel was hurt on a pickoff attempt at first after reaching base in the top of the first inning. He did not return.
The Panthers had an opportunity to take the lead in the bottom of the fourth, but failed execution let the chance go by the wayside. After tying things on Berry’s double, courtesy runner Slade Buckley — in for Barkurn, who reached on an error — stumbled coming home on a squeeze bunt attempt that was missed at the plate. Buckley got nailed in the resulting rundown.
“It was momentum,” Watkins said. “Just little things like that, you’ve got to execute.
“We have to hit better to, and their guy had a lot to do with that, but we’ve got to have better at-bats. We had too many strikeouts and fly-ball outs.”
Massengale, who said he had everything working on Friday night, needed only 87 pitches to go the distance. He threw 13 or less pitches in each of the final five frames.
Both Petal (0-1) and Sumrall (1-0) will take on Forrest County AHS at Petal High School tomorrow.
SCORE BY INNING
Errors—Dobbs, Knight.. LOB—Sumrall 7, Petal 5. 2B—Jones; Berry. SAC—Simon; Mims. SB—Watts. CS— Simon (by Graves). HBP—Jackson, Alford (by Massengale).Blk—Massengale.