By Reid Bankston
For the second straight season, the Water Valley Blue Devils are making some serious noise in the class 3A baseball playoffs.
With a two game sweep of Kossuth, the Blue Devils (18-9 overall, 7-3 division) advance to play the winner of the Mooreville and Independence series, as Water Valley continues to ride a wave of momentum that started in early April.
Few teams in class 3A can match the playoff experience of this Blue Devil squad, and you’d be hard pressed to find a team throughout the state that is swinging the bat better than Water Valley.
The Blue Devils are averaging 12 runs per game in their last 14 games, including two 10 run efforts against Kossuth. Water Valley is 11-3 during that stretch, with only one loss coming to a class 3A opponent.
Like Leflore County in the first round of the playoffs, the Kossuth Aggies had no answer for the Water Valley offense during the two game sweep. The Blue Devils totaled nine hits in game one of the series at Kossuth, including homeruns from John Michael Grimmett, Drew Pratt, and Walt McCullough, on their way to a 10-8 road victory last Friday.
Water Valley jumped out to a 7-0 lead before a five run bottom half of the fifth got Kossuth back into the game. However, Pratt’s three run home run in the top of the sixth proved too much for the Aggies, pushing the Water Valley lead to 10-5. Kossuth would get three runs back in the bottom half of the sixth, but they could get no closer, as McCullough earned the save in relief of Pratt.
At the plate, Water Valley received two hit games from Pratt, J.D. Fondon, and Cole Camp, while Pratt struck out six Aggies on the mound. Kossuth out hit Water Valley, recording 10 base hits, but the long ball proved to be the difference in the pivotal game one encounter.
Water Valley finished the sweep of the Aggies on Saturday at Blue Devil Field with a 10-3 win, as Kossuth again struggled to stay in the game early.
The Aggies took a 1-0 lead in the top half of the first inning, but Water Valley scored three runs of their own in the bottom half of the frame. The Blue Devils scored two more runs in the bottom of the third by way of a Fondon home run to extend their lead to 5-1, which proved to be more than enough for McCullough on the mound.
Kossuth added a run in the top of the fourth, but a five run bottom of the fifth, powered by a McCullough grand slam, put the game out of reach for the Aggies. McCullough conceded a run in the seventh, but earned his complete game victory none the less, striking out three Aggie batters in the process. McCullough finished the game with one less RBI (6) than Kossuth had hits (7).
Coach Kari Bridges’ squad has won their four playoff games this season by a combined score of 50-11.
The Blue Devils swept Independence in the first round of last year’s playoffs on their way to an appearance in the state championship series against Sumrall. Water Valley also holds an advantage over Mooreville in their most recent meetings, as the Blue Devils swept the Troopers in mid-April to clinch the second seed in the division.
If Mooreville should advance to play Water Valley, home field advantage could be crucial for the Blue Devils, as they have only lost once at home all season.