UMS-Wright’s Sutton Snypes delivers a pitch during Game 1 of the Class 4A state championship series against Etowah in Oxford Tuesday night. Snypes allowed six runs on nine hits in 5.2 innings in the 6-1 loss. (Jimmy Wigfield/Call News)
By JIMMY WIGFIELD
OXFORD, Ala. — Things couldn’t have gone much worse for UMS-Wright Tuesday night as it started its quest for an 11th state baseball championship.
The Bulldogs were plagued by bunts. They committed four errors. They extracted just three hits off Etowah right-hander Jameson Scissum, whose well-spotted fastball touched 90 mph at times.
Even UMS-Wright coach Kevin Raley’s cherished black Bic pen was somehow destroyed during a 6-1 loss to the Blue Devils in the opener of the Class 4A finals at soggy Choccolocco Park.
“I’ve had that pen for 20 years,” Raley said while holding its shattered remnants in his hands after the game in the dugout.
But Raley is confident he can put the pieces back together Wednesday after the Bulldogs lost the opener of a state championship series for only the fourth time in 13 appearances. They rallied to win the Blue Map in 1997 and 2011 and have been swept only once, by Central-Florence in 1998.
“We’ve talked about it all year — we’re built for three-game sets,” Raley said. “Now we’ve got to find a way to get into Game 3.”
UMS-Wright (27-13) meets Etowah (29-11) in a must-win Game 2 Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Rudy Abbott Field in Jacksonville. A third game, if necessary, is at 7 p.m.
It’s not going to be easy for the Mobilians. The Blue Devils, going for their first state championship since 1996, are 9-0 this postseason, have won 10 straight games and 22 of their last 26.
But Raley found solace in the knowledge his team faced a similar scenario in the semifinals against Bayside Academy last week, losing the opener 9-0 and falling behind 3-0 in the second game before outscoring the Admirals 18-5 the rest of the way to win in three games.
Raley will start ace Alex Sherman (8-2, 1.26 ERA) in Game 2 and likely Jake Jaye (6-2, 3.34 ERA) in the third game.
“We’re going to be facing a good lefty tomorrow but we’ve got Alex and Jake,” Raley said. “We’re going to go get after it.”
The Bulldogs struggled from the beginning Tuesday night in a game delayed two hours by rain which ended at 11:44 p.m.
Left-hander Sutton Snypes (8-5) labored through the first two scoreless innings — reaching 40 pitches — before allowing four runs in the third.
Snypes threw 17 first-pitch strikes, twice as many as Scissum, but gave up six runs (four earned) on 10 hits in 5.2 innings and unofficially threw 107 pitches. He stranded seven baserunners as Etowah left runners on the bags in every inning.
The Blue Devils also bedeviled UMS-Wright by reaching base three times on bunt singles.
“We didn’t play very well,” Raley said. “Etowah executed what they do. They’re good in the bunt game and we didn’t do a good job handling it. We didn’t communicate very well.”
Etowah’s Hunter Humphries reached base in the decisive third inning with a bunt single that hugged the first-base line and went on to score the third run of the inning on Caleb Freeman’s two-run double to right field.
But before that, the Bulldogs let the first run of the third score on two errors, one on a wild throw from catcher Parker Barraza on a steal by Briggs Freeman and another by center fielder Cole Blaylock, who scooped up Barraza’s throw and threw it into the Blue Devils’ dugout.
Meanwhile, Scissum threw six scoreless innings and at one point retired 15 of 16 batters. The top of UMS-Wright’s order was just 3-for-13 and didn’t drive in a run.
“Their pitcher was as advertised — he is real good,” Raley said. “We’d try to get a little momentum and he’d pound the strike zone on us.”
Scissum threw four first-pitch outs and struck out six but the Bulldogs finally scratched him for a run in the bottom of the seventh on Barraza’s RBI single off reliever Damon De Vine. UMS-Wright loaded the bases with two outs before Blaylock struck out looking on a 2-2 count to end the game.