By Reid Bankston
PEARL – Riding high on a wave of confidence, the Water Valley Blue Devils arrived in Pearl looking to unsettle one of the nation’s premier programs, and capture a state championship.
It was a challenge welcomed by many Blue Devil players, but that optimism could do little to stop the Sumrall Bobcats from capturing their third straight 3A state championship and perhaps a national title, as Larry Knight’s squad sits second in two major polls (USA Today, Collegiate Baseball) and in the top five of several others.
It was simply a case of a team spurned on by will and heart matching up against a team filled with big names and big reputations, but unfortunately for head coach Doug Robbins, there would be no fairy-tale ending to a heart stopping playoff run.
Behind strong pitching and huge offensive outburst, Sumrall proved once again, that they are the class of Mississippi, as they went on to defeat Water Valley 12-2 and 11-1 in the best of three championship series. This series marked the sixth straight game that the Bobcats emerged victors courtesy of the 10-run mercy rule, providing further evidence that their state-record 67 game winning streak, snapped earlier this year, was no fluke.
Game one of the series started brightly enough for the Blue Devils, as J.D. Fondon brought in Josh Johnson in the top of the first, after the senior shortstop ripped a game opening double, giving Water Valley a 1-0 lead.
Shanquayle Jenkins received the dubious task of trying to slow down Sumrall and maintain the one run advantage, but the senior hurler simply had no answer for perhaps the most complete lineup the state has ever seen. Jenkins, who has come up big time and again for Water Valley in 2010, only survived two innings after being charged with seven earned runs, while Drew Pratt fared slightly better, only giving up five earned runs in three innings.
Neither pitcher could do anything to corral Sumrall in the seven-run third inning that gave the Bobcats an 8-1 lead, and virtually decided game one. The Bobcats added two more runs in the fourth and fifth innings, while Water Valley added a consolation run in the top half of the fifth, but the game was called via the mercy rule, giving Sumrall the 12-2 victory.
Water Valley bats were silenced by Sumrall starter Luke Lowry, totaling only four hits, while Water Valley pitching granted the Bobcats their 12 runs on only 10 hits, as the Blue Devils walked six batters in just five innings.
Game two was much of the same for Water Valley, as Johnson was battered by the Sumrall lineup, while Sumrall’s Jackson Posey (Southern Miss Signee) kept the Blue Devils quiet at the plate in an 11-1 state championship clinching win.
The Bobcats totaled 14 hits in just 28 at bats, and needed no help in driving in all 11 of their runs. Bobcat seniors Chad Guice, Domonique Griffith, Chase Lewallen (Mississippi State Signee) helped their classmate Posey, by going a combined 8-10 at the plate in five innings of work.
Jenkins was the lone star at the plate for Water Valley (22-9) in the season finale, earning a pair of hits and the team’s lone RBI at the plate.