Starkville Daily News
Jackets edge Golden Wave on homer by Pulliam
There is a first time for everything even for a high school baseball player as accomplished as Ethan Pulliam.
During his outstanding career at Starkville High School, Pulliam had never before had a hit to win a game in walkoff style.
That is until it happened Tuesday night.
The Mississippi State signee delivered a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh as the Yellow Jackets defeated the Tupelo Golden Wave 4-3 to open the Class 6A, Region 1 schedule.
Pulliam remained confident that somehow Starkville was going to get the victory over Tupelo.
“I just tried to keep going,” Pulliam said. “I had a feeling that it would come down to me in the last inning. I kind of reflected back last season when we played Madison (Central) here on our field. I remember hitting a bomb later in that game and the next time I got up to bat,
I hit another bomb. I just knew that I had to keep my head on no matter how we were playing throughout the game. I knew we had tough situations, but I just tried to stay focused because sometimes you can think if you hit one home run, you are done for the night. I knew I had to come back and produce again.”
Pulliam had already hit one home run for the Jackets to bring them within one run of the Golden Wave in the sixth inning at 3-2, then he got back up again one inning later and delivered the tworun blow to end the contest.
SHS head coach Luke Adkins said the decision was made a couple of weeks ago to put Pulliam in the lead off position to get him more at-bats in key situations.
“When we are able to lead (Pulliam) off and we've got Brennon (Wright) and Kieran (Coleman), I kind of have some guys behind him to protect him a little,” Adkins said. “We've had really good production out of the bottom of our lineup and it's made for a lot of opportunities for him to be up in some crucial spots with runners on base.”
That scenario took place in the seventh inning against the Golden Wave as Cohen Deweese led off the frame of the Jackets by forcing a walk to get on base. Three batters later Pulliam used his power to produce the game-winner.
Pulliam said there was positive energy in the dugout late in the game.
“In those last two innings, the coaches were saying, ‘let's put together some good atbats and let's pass it back to the top of our lineup,'” Pulliam
said. “I told Brennon when we were back in the field that one of us is going to walk it off so we kind of called our shot, stayed confident and didn't get down that we losing by one. We didn't care. We just stayed alive.”
Tupelo led the entire game until the end by scoring a pair of runs in the first inning and one more in the third to take a 3-1 lead.
Johnathan Rogers was dealing on the mound for the Golden Wave and ended up with 11 strikeouts.
“The kid that started for them is one of the better pitchers in our league,” Adkins said of Rogers. “I thought we had a pretty good approach against him. He's got a live arm and there is a reason he is going to be a Division I pitcher.”
Starkville did get an early run off Rogers in the first inning when Pulliam walked, Wright singled and Coleman
drove home Pulliam with a single. Rogers gave up the solo shot from Pulliam in the sixth.
Pulliam reached base in all four of his at-bats and scored three times. Wright had a double and a single, while the single by Kieran Coleman was the only other hit.
The pitching of Otto Hyche and Cole Kendrick kept the Jackets in the game. Hyche went the first five innings, scattered seven hits and struck out eight.
“He's thrown well for us all year and for him to step in and be our No. 1 guy on the bump is big for us because I'm able to save guys like Ethan and use him more on the back end of ballgames,” Adkins said. “If we can get to those situations where we are up late, then I can bring Ethan in.”
Kendrick worked the final two frames to get the win and had three strikeouts.
The two teams meet again on Thursday night in Tupelo before completing the threegame division set this week back in Starkville on Saturday.