PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Following a 2012 state championship and being the runners up last season, the Pascagoula Panthers struggled at the beginning of this season.
Head coach Richie Tillman's squad was 8-11 after 19 games, including separate five- and four-game losing streaks during that time. Since then, Pascagoula has caught fire and is just one series win away from heading to the 5A south state championship for the third straight season.
"We weren't playing very well midway through the season but thank goodness our guys kept wanting to work and get better," Tillman said. "They weren't satisfied and we weren't satisfied as a coaching staff. The plus is, we're doing a lot of the little things better. That's what it takes to be a competitive baseball team and win those close games. You've got to do the little things well and I'm very pleased with the effort from our guys."
Pascagoula lost game one of its second round series with South Jones before bouncing back to win games two and three. Now it sets up a massive showdown with fellow region 8-5A team East Central.
The Hornets have won five straight games by a combined score of 49-5. Four of those victories have come during the playoffs. Their last loss was during the penultimate game of the season -- a 4-3 defeat at the hands of Pascagoula.
"They can definitely hit," Pascagoula senior outfielder Slater McCarty said. "We just need to make them not better than what they are, like limit our errors to let it be a good game instead of giving them the game like we've done in the past."
East Central won both games of a home-and-home series with Pascagoula in early April by scores of 6-0 and 5-2. Either way, region 8-5A will be represented in the south state championship.