PEARL, MS (WLOX) - The Pascagoula Panthers stayed alive in the 5A State baseball finals at Trustmark Park in Pearl, MS, with a 3-2 victory over New Hope Friday.
It's a different opponent in a different calendar year, but the result could potentially be the same for head coach Richie Tillman and the Pascagoula Panthers.
Senior catcher Jacob Stanford had two hits and drove in all three runs in Pascagoula's 3-2 win over the New Hope Trojans to force a winner-take-all game three on Saturday.
"This team, they never give up," Tillman said. "They've always got a swagger. Sometimes it takes a little while to show up. They're a confident group, and they should be. They've shown that they can perform when it matters."
Pascagoula lost game one of the 2012 5A state championship series 4-3 to the Hernando Tigers before winning the final two games. The Panthers lost 11-9 on Wednesday against the Trojans, who hung on for that win despite blowing a six-run lead.
In game one, Pascagoula trailed 9-3 entering the sixth inning before scoring six runs – all with two outs. Stanford had three RBIs in that game before equaling that output again in game two.
"We knew we could score on them," Stanford said. "We just have to hit the ball when it counts."
The Panthers opened the scoring in the bottom of the first with Stanford's RBI single and extended the lead to 3-0 with his second hit of the afternoon.
New Hope cut the deficit to 3-2 in the top of the fifth inning with back-to-back RBI singles with two outs by Rooke Coleman and Payton Lane. The Trojans had the game-tying and go-ahead runs on base, but Pascagoula pitcher Allen Cowart forced New Hope second baseman Parker Earhart to ground out.
Cowart, who has signed to play at Jones County Junior College next season, pitched a complete game, allowing two earned runs on eight hits while racking up two strikeouts.
"He's not scared to go at you," Tillman said. "He's just a competitor. Like we've said before, he's five-feet [tall], but he pitches like he's 6-foot-7."
Pascagoula will attempt to pick up the school's second state championship in as many years at Trustmark Park in Pearl on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.