By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Munford Cougar pitcher Josh Hibbard was ready to match Dyer County standout Trysten Barlow pitch for pitch March 26 at the Munford Baseball Field.
And for the first four inning of the District 13-3A showdown, Hibbard held his own holding the Choctaws to one run. But an error to start the top of the fifth inning started a snowball effort in the 30-degree conditions leading to a four-run frame for Dyer County.
The Choctaws pieced together 8 more runs in the next two innings to win 13-1.
“The big deal with us this year is that we’ve got to make plays,” Munford Head Coach Jason Johnson said. “We have some really good quality pitchers. But we don’t have the dominant pitcher like Dyer County was able to throw at us tonight. We’ve got to make plays in the field. And we didn’t do that tonight.”
The Cougar have used a combination of solid defense to accompany good pitching to pick up wins over teams like Collierville and defending State champions Arlington. But Johnson noted in his team’s losses this year, there has been a receipe for disaster that formulated against the Choctaws.
“We haven’t done that a couple of other times this year,” he said about making plays. “And when you don’t do that, the pitcher’s pitch count gets elevated. And he gets tired. And then pitches start getting up in the zone. And that’s when they can start really doing some damage signing the bat. If we don’t make plays, we’re going to have a hard time outscoring people with caliber pitchers like they had tonight.”
Barlow, an Ole Miss signee, held the Cougars scoreless through the first four innings. He was working with a 1-0 lead until Dyer County popped a four-spot on the scoreboard in the fifth inning.
Barlow’s double made the score 4-0. Trailing 5-0, the Cougars started to mount a rally when Tommy Smith reached base to lead off the inning.
Three batters later Ryan Bargery hit into a fielder’s choice to score Smith to make the score 5-1. But in the sixth inning Dyer County pulled away with a two-run homer and three addition runs in the frame to lead 10-1.
The Choctaws added three more runs in the seventh inning to post a 12-run victory. Now the Cougars had a chance to regroup with Dyer County on the schedule for a March 27 rematch at Choctaw Field.
“We’ve just got to execute and do the right things,” Johnson said. “We’ve got two guys we’re ready to throw tomorrow that will be ready to compete. They’re going to allow them to put the ball into play and let us make plays behind them. And we have to have better approaches at the plate.
“We have a chance to regroup,” he concluded. “That’s the beauty about baseball. You don’t have to wait a week like you do in some sports. We got to go right back at it tomorrow. They have to come out ready to play tomorrow so we can split with them and be in pretty decent shape.”
In the rematch at Dyer County, the Cougars were beaten 3-2.