From their first win at Smokie Harrington Park to their journey to Trustmark Park, the Sumrall Bobcats kept me busy this past baseball season. For that, I say thank you. Though the team came up short of hoisting the gold glove trophy, they took us all on one heckuva ride.
I’ll never forget the scene at Larry Knight Field after the Bobcats rallied to beat West Lauderdale in South State. I’ll set that scene with this: I thought they were done. Seemingly with a snap of a finger, the Bobcats lost a five-run lead. Not only that, they were down by one with only three outs to spare in the bottom of the seventh inning. So yeah, things looked bleak.
Then, Hayden Barrett drew a leadoff walk and Dannis Jackson followed with a single, and just like that, the Bobcats had two speedy baserunners on with their hottest hitter, Graham Crawford, due up in a big spot. Who better than Crawford, a known terrorizer of West Lauderdale’s pitching staff, to take advantage of the situation? Surprise, surprise, Crawford tied the game with an RBI single. Unwilling to pitch to another slugger, the Knights intentionally walked Billy Garrity to load the bases for Hunter Barrett. Who would question bypassing a Division I signee for a guy who was hitless in the series? At the time it was the right move, but in the end it cost the Knights their season. With arguably the fastest player in the state, Dannis Jackson, at third base, Barrett did his job and sent a ball to right field. It was caught for the second out of the inning, but Jackson had ample time, and speed, to tag up and score the game-winning run on a sacrifice-fly.
Barrett received the hero’s reward of being mobbed his teammates. One by one, they piled on top of the senior as he lay near first base. Sumrall students hopped the right field fence and charged towards the infield dogpile. Baseball parents and grandparents poured onto the field through the home dugout gate. It felt as if the whole town was there.
Two days later, you got that same feeling at Trustmark Park with Sumrall bringing more fans to Pearl than any other fanbase during the state championships. On Thursday, the Bobcats were the visiting team on the scoreboard against New Hope, but Trojan fans were outnumbered probably 5-1.
Unfortunately, home field advantage wasn’t enough, though. The Bobcats let a late lead slip through their fingers in Game 1 and proceeded to have their worst hitting performance of the season in Game 2 on the way to being swept in the three-game state championship series.
I grew up and live about an hour away from Sumrall, so I didn’t have a dog in the fight. That being said, it hurt me to see this senior class come up short. I’ve gotten to know a lot of those guys pretty well the last few years, and for the longest time it felt like 2019 was gonna be their year. In the end, it wasn’t meant to be for this senior group. Some of them will play past high school with hopes of getting another shot at a championship, and some will call it a career and move on to a new chapter in their lives. All, however, should look back on their playing days at Sumrall with great pride because it was an amazing ride.