North Pike Edges Cougars for Division Crown, Playoffs Friday

The North Pike won two of three games against the Lawrence County High Cougars last week, claiming the Division 6-4A regular season championship in the process. North Pike entered the final division series with a perfect 12-0 mark in division play. LCHS entered with a 10-2 division mark. Thus, the Cougars knew going in that they would have to sweep the three-game series to earn the Division 6-4A crown.
On Tuesday, at North Pike, the Cougars got one-third of the way to their goal, coming from behind late in the game to claw out a 3-1 win. Still, LCHS needed to sweep a Thursday double-header at Jimmie Davis Park. The Cougars came close in the early game, losing 3-1 when North Pike made a spectacular game-ending double play. After that, the final game of the series was a bit anti-climactic. North Pike finished its division title in style, winning 4-1.
With those results, Josh Garrett’s Cougars finished the week with an overall record of 19-5, and 11-4 in Division 6-4A games, good for a second-place finish.
“Obviously, we’d love to have won our division,” said Garrett, “but our kids gave it a great fight over these last three weeks. There is no shame in the season we’ve put together, both in division play and overall.”
LCHS hosted Taylorsville in the regular-season finale on Monday. Results were not available at press time. See next week’s edition for coverage of that game.
Here’s a game-by-game re-cap of the North Pike series:
The opening game of the series was a dandy— and the sixth straight tight, tense division game for the Cougars. North Pike took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, largely of the hitting and baserunning of speedy center fielder Mathew Phillips. Phillips singled, stole second and third, and scored on a sacrifice fly.
After that, LCHS southpaw Brandon Bullock shut the Jaguars out. North Pike got runners on base in the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth inning, but without a base hit. All of them reached via walks, a hit batsman, or errors. On the night, Bullock allowed just the one Phillips hit, and struck out six.
The Cougars had their chances early on. A Bullock single and two bases on balls loaded the bases in the first, to no avail. In the third, a walk and a hit batsman created a major threat. In the fourth, Seth Bass reached on an infield single, and in the fifth, two North Pike errors created an opportunity for Lawrence County. Still, entering the top of the sixth, North Pike still led 1-0.
In the sixth, the Cougars finally dented the scoreboard. With one out, Marquez Hudson banged a double to right-center. Bass walked. Both runners advanced on a Walt Lowe single that loaded the bases. Kasey Durr then tied the game at 1-1 with an RBI groundout.
In the top of the seventh, with one out, Marcus Atterberry singled. With two out, he moved to second on a Peyton Little single. Both came in to score on a wild play, when Marquez Hudson’s ground ball was thrown away, past the first baseman. After trailing for virtually the entire game, Lawrence County suddenly found itself ahead 3-1.
North Pike did threaten in the bottom of the seventh, thanks to two Lawrence County errors. However, Bullock struck out the final two North Pike batters to preserve the win.
“That was a heck of a win for our team,” said long-time LCHS assistant Craig Davis. “That was our sixth nail-biter in a row in division play, and we’ve won our share of them. Our guys did a good job tonight.”
Lawrence County entered Thursday’s double-header at Jimmie Davis Park one step closer to a second straight division title— the Cougars went 15-0 in division play last season— but North Pike still need just one win to claim the crown. The Jaguars did so in dramatic fashion.
For the second straight game, center fielder Mathew Phillips got North Pike on top by singling and stealing his way around the bases. The Jaguars would lead 1-0 until the top of the fifth.
Lawrence County got a Brandon Bullock single in the first inning, but was retired in order in the second, third, and fourth innings. North Pike put together two runs on three hits in the top of the fifth to stretch its lead to 3-0. With left-hander Kole Alford in total control of the Cougar batters, that seemed like more than enough.
In the bottom of the fifth, after the first two Cougars struck out, sophomore infielder Marquez Hudson blasted a mammoth homerun that cleared the Cougars’ large scoreboard in left-center field. North Pike’s lead was down to 3-1.
Alford retired the Cougars easily in the bottom of the sixth. Thus, Lawrence County found itself down by two runs entering the bottom of the seventh. After a fly ball produced the first out of the inning, Marcus Atterberry singled to give the Cougars a chance. Gage Daley then grounded to third, but an errant throw allowed him to reach, putting runners on second and third, with one out.
The Cougars came painfully close to pulling out another thriller. Designated hitter Peyton Little laced a vicious line drive that seemed destined for the wall in right-center. If it had gotten through, it would have tied the game, with Little— in scoring position— representing the potential winning run.
However, the Cougars’ main nemesis of the week, North Pike center fielder Mathew Phillips, made a spectacular diving catch, then threw to second base to double off Atterberry, and end the game. The play clinched the division title for North Pike.
“Let’s give credit to North Pike,” said assistant Davis. “That was a great swing by Peyton, but Phillips made a great play. In fairness to our baserunners, I probably would have gotten doubled off on that ball, too. If he doesn’t catch it, we tie the game and are trying to push across the winning run.”
Phillips’ great catch and the North Pike win wasted an excellent pitching effort from LCHS stalwart Kasey Durr. Durr allowed four hits and struck out seven in giving the Cougars another excellent mound effort.
With the division title already decided, the final division game of the year was a bit less intense than it otherwise might have been. North Pike scored three runs on three hits in the top of the third, grabbing a 3-0 lead.
A Brandon Bullock double, the Cougars’ only hit of the game, drove home an unearned run in the bottom of the inning. North Pike upped its lead to 4-1 with a single run in the fifth, and that was all of the scoring. Lawrence County had just one appreciable threat after the third inning, but that one was ended by a baserunning blunder.
Prentiss Anderson started and went four solid innings for Lawrence County, but he was charged with the loss. Trey Thurman worked three solid innings in relief.
In the opening round of the state 4A baseball playoffs, the Cougars will face an old, familiar playoff foe— the East Central Hornets, from Hurley, Mississippi. LCHS and East Central have had some incredible playoff series over the years, but the last one was nine years ago. East Central will travel to Jimmie Davis Park on Friday, and the Cougars will make the long trip to Hurley— located just off Highway 63 between Lucedale and Pascagoula— on Saturday. A third game, if necessary, will be back at Jimmie Davis Park on Monday. Game times had not been set as of press time. Look for full coverage in next week’s edition.