Coming off a strong finish to the regular season, along with a mauling of Region 3-2A’s top seed, Water Valley entered the second round of the playoffs playing their best baseball of the season.
The Blue Devils’, much like the first round, entered their second round matchup as an underdog to Region 1-2A top seed Baldwyn. Unlike Leland, Baldwyn would prove to be a much tougher foe, but in the end, Water Valley’s grit and determination proved too much for the Bearcats. Led my impressive pitching throughout the series, the Blue Devils (18-9) clinched a 2-1 series win, setting up a showdown with familiar foe Hamilton.
The series opener between the Blue Devils and Bearcats turned into a pitching duel to remember. Tank Hervey (5-5) took the mound for Water Valley, and took a two hitter into the ninth inning, but unfortunately for the Blue Devils, even that was not enough.
Tanner Gaines for Baldwyn out dueled Hervey and reliever Josh Johnson (2-2, 3 saves), as the Bearcat hurler also held the Blue Devils to two hits and no runs and earned his team a 1-0 series opening victory. Although Hervey turned in the best pitching outing for the Blue Devils this season, and lowering his ERA to a team leading 2.15, Baldwyn took a 1-0 series lead into Friday’s game two in Water Valley.
With their season on the line, it didn’t take Coach Doug Robbins’ squad long to respond in game two.
Thanks to a comedy of errors from Baldwyn, and heads up base running by the Blue Devils, Water Valley took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
Baldwyn responded with two runs of their own in the top of the second and one in the third, but more costly errors allowed Water Valley to blow the game open seven runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Shonquayle Jenkins (5-2) kept the Bearcats at bay until a three run sixth inning saw Josh Johnson come in for relief. Johnson, who was unfortunate to record the loss in game one, put an end to a spirited Baldwyn rally, sparked by the ejection of head coach Gregg Tucker.
Tucker, who was less than pleased with several calls on the night, earned his marching orders after a Baldwyn runner was correctly called out at the plate.
After the ejection, Johnson settled in and went to work, striking out two in the seventh to wrap up a 10-6 Blue Devil win, and force a game three at Baldwyn.
Entering game three, the Blue Devils had it all to play for, as a spot in the third round in the playoffs against Hamilton was up for grabs.
Taking the honors on the mound for Water Valley was sophomore ace Drew Pratt (5-0, 3.77 ERA), while freshman Chris Conard was the hero at the plate. Conard, who is batting .303 on the season, belted a game changing double to secure the momentum for Water Valley in a hotly contested elimination encounter.
With Conard providing breathing room for the Blue Devils, and Pratt delivering another consistent performance, Robbins handed the ball over to Johnson to close out the series and a 6-3 Water Valley win. With a 2-1 series win over another region winner, the Blue Devils advance to play region foe Hamilton in the third round of the 2A state playoffs.
Water Valley vs. Hamilton
Game One At Hamilton, 6:00 P.M. Friday
Game Two At Water Valley, 2:00 P.M. Saturday