PEARL — Behind the pitching of Dalton Neely along with a big fifth inning, Pearl got past St. Martin 4-2 in Game 2 of the first round of the MHSAA Class 6A Baseball Playoffs at Pirate Park on Monday night.
The Pirate win forces the decisive Game 3, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday night at St. Martin. The winner will advance to face Gulfport in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs, which begin Thursday.
“Two even teams playing,” Pearl coach Brian Jones said. “Same thing happened the other night — the team that makes the least amount of mistakes wins the game, and we did that tonight. We made pitches, when we needed too, and found a way to win and gave ourselves a chance to play tomorrow night.”
Pearl (16-12) scored all four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning.
After the first two hitters reached base, Austin Green hit a two-run single to left to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
Green scored on a throwing error to make it 3-0, and Pearl scored their fourth and final run on a wild pitch.
“Taking advantage of their mistakes, and we caught breaks tonight,” Jones said. “They did it to us Saturday night, and we did that tonight.”
Neely lasted six and two-thirds innings, scattering four hits, and gave up two earned runs, walked four and had 10 strikeouts.
“He’s done really well the second half of the season, and he’s not an overpowering guy,” Jones said. “He throws a lot of off-speed pitches and throws in that sinker, and it’s productive. He battled all night. I told the guys, it’s all about competing, and now we got Game 3 and the pressure is equal with winner moving on and loser goes home.”
Connor McHenry had two hits to lead Pearl offensively.
Landon Payne (4-5) took the loss on the mound for St. Martin. Payne also had two doubles for the Yellow Jackets (17-10).
St. Martin would get a two-run single by Julian Fayard in the sixth to cut the lead to 4-2. The Yellow Jackets left nine men on base, including eight in scoring position.
“We left way too many runners on base, but at the same time their pitcher did a good job of getting out of jams so give him credit,” said St. Martin coach Kary Bridges. “We did a good job of holding them to four runs in the fifth and battled back and gave ourselves a chance. Now we have to move on to Game 3 at home and we play well at home.”