May 22nd, 2017
Golden Wave claims the golden glove ending their 24 year title drought
Pearl — A 24 year championship drought was ended with defensive superiority and a dominating pitching performance from junior Josh Smith. The Golden Wave gets their third state title in program history beating Gulfport 3-0 in game three of the Class 6A State Championship series on Saturday night.
“I believe you gotta believe in it,” coach Justin Reed said. “Set your goals at the beginning of the year and each one of them, this was our goal.”
They all believed. From the moment the Golden Wave stepped inside Trustmark Park’s foul lines they knew they weren’t leaving without the Golden Glove.
The seven fielders behind junior southpaw Josh Smith and one in front were locked in from the first pitch until the last.
Smith threw seven complete innings, giving up just four hits and walking one batter while striking out five. There were just two innings of the seven that Tupelo saw more than four batters.
In the top of the second, with the game still scoreless, Gulfport got its bats going. But the Golden Wave was ready.
Blake Johnson led off in the second for the Admirals, hitting a deep fly to left field, LaBryant Siddell was there to make the play — one out. Ethan Saucier stepped into the box next, and Gatlin Farrar was ready at second to make the 4-3 play — two outs.
After hitting Patrick Nelm with a pitch and Dylan Ladner singling to center, Beckett White hit a hard ball to Farrar who tagged Ladner — three outs.
The game was filled with clutch plays, none more clutch than Smith’s performance in the top of the fourth.
Down 3-0, Gulfport started the fourth with their three-four-five hitters. Gabe Lacy started things off with a single to left, Blake Johnson took the base on balls and Ethan Saucier advanced the runners with a bunt.
With one out and two men in scoring position, it looked like Gulfport was about to make things interesting. Tupelo’s pitching coach, Levi Bishop, called timeout to talk to his starter.
“Coach came out to me and said, ‘Slow it down a little bit,'” Smith said. “He said, ‘We have respect for what you’ve done all game.’ I was getting a little quick but I found my rhythm and kept going.”
Smith struck out the next two batters, Patrick Nelms swinging and Dylan Ladner looking. Smith said he knew after that it was the Golden Wave’s game to win.
Tupelo earned its last state title in 1993. The 24-year wait was worth it for this 2017 Golden Wave team who believed in their Trustmark Park goal. With an 18-8 record coming into the postseason, Tupelo was no one’s favorite to win the 6A title.
That didn’t matter to any of them.
“It may sound cliche, but this was our goal,” Reed said. “We broke it down on Trustmark every day at practice. This is where we saw ourselves, where we wanted to be at the end of the year.”
They executed and brought a state title back to Tupelo.
Sanders got things going for his team offensively with an RBI double to left field in the bottom of the second. Charlie Greer added the two final runs to the score, bringing Jack Ikerd and Josh Smith home in the bottom of the third on a double to right field.
“When we came in day one it was our goal,” junior South Sanders said. “We knew we had the team to do it. We knew we had the skill. We just had to execute.”