CLINTON — It was fitting that pitcher Darian Turnstall provided the happy ending to Silliman Institute’s storybook baseball season.
There was hardly any suspense left as the senior left-hander closed the final chapter with his ninth strikeout, completing a masterful one-hitter and clinching Thursday’s 6-0 victory over Oak Hill Academy in Game 2 of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AA championship series. The win clinched Silliman’s third MAIS title, wining also in 2000 and 2002.
“It means a lot,” said Turnstall, who will graduate with the team’s five other seniors Friday night. “I feel like everybody around here has been wanting it; I mean the whole town of Clinton. I’m just glad we could bring it home for them.”
Turnstall dominated the Raiders, limiting them to just one single in seven innings, much like fellow senior Jordan Talley did in Tuesday’s 4-1 victory, a one-hitter, which gave the Wildcats the advantage in the best-of-three championship series. One run and three hits in 14 innings won’t win many baseball games.
“We ran into the best pitching we’ve seen all year; the most consistent pitching for sure,” said Oak Hill coach Marion Bratton, whose squad finished 16-9. “Like I say, good pitching trumps good hitting most of the time.”
The championship was the first for fourth-year Wildcats coach John Ryan Beauchamp, whose squad finished 23-7.
“Darian and Jordan did fantastic jobs on the mound,” said Beauchamp. “They weren’t always getting the calls, and they were able to keep their composure and were able to hang in there and do fantastic jobs.”
The visitors from West Point, Mississippi, opened the first two innings with walks but failed to capitalize as Turnstall notched four strikeouts.
Silliman managed a run in the first after Cole Jackson reached on a throwing error that seemed to rattle losing pitcher Drew Riley, who then walked Talley and hit Turnstall and Brian Siebert with consecutive pitches, scoring Jackson.
The Wildcats added another run in the second after Josh Coarsey was hit by a pitch, advanced on a single by Caleb Jackson and scored on a wild pitch for a 2-0 lead.
Turnstall got out of a jam in the third after hitting consecutive batters and a sacrifice moved them into scoring position. He enticed cleanup hitter Ken Dill into a groundout to end the threat.
Silliman padded its lead in the bottom of the third when Brian Siebert singled, moved to second when Tre Berthelot was safe on an error and scored on Michael Davison’s single to left.
Neither team threatened in the fourth or fifth innings, and after the Raiders were retired in the top of the sixth, Silliman scored three insurance runs in the bottom of the inning.
After Caleb Jackson reached on an error, Zack Kelly singled and Cole Jackson walked to load the bases. A sacrifice fly by Talley scored Caleb Jackson, with the two runners advancing on an errant throw to the plate. A fielding error on Turnstall’s long fly to left scored the final two runs.
After the Raiders were retired in order, players, coaches and fans swarmed the field to celebrate the triumph. For Beauchamp, it was his first coaching championship.
“For this group of seniors, it’s unreal how far they’ve come on and off the field,” Beauchamp said. “I’m going to miss them like crazy. But this will be their legacy. … Quite an ending.”