South strikes first, Mustangs sweep
It was a battle from the beginning to the end — and a little bit after, too.
West Jones completed the season sweep of Region 5-5A with a 5-3 win over rival South Jones that ended with a little post-game skirmish in Soso on Friday night.
Both coaches just chalked it up to what has become a crosstown rivalry with big playoff implications.
“It’s tense, and the juices start flowing … but I don’t know exactly what happened,” WJ coach Trey Sutton said after his team’s 16th consecutive win.
SJ coach Jordan Rogers said, “I think it was just a little jawing.”
A couple of players started shoving and maybe got in a jab or two as the teams were lined up to shake hands after the game. Coaches, school resource officers and cooler-headed teammates intervened to prevent it from turning into an all-out brawl.
Both squads came out swinging a couple of hours earlier in their last big tuneup for the postseason.
West Jones left-hander Kris Riley (3-0) and Evan Bynum combined to toss a two-hitter. Reid Golemon took the loss, combining with Ricky Boleware and Tyler Ducksworth to scatter six hits.
Walker Thompson went 2-for-4 with an RBI and Colson Harris drove in two runs to lead the Mustangs (21-1, 9-0 region). Hayden Bryan and Dustin Dickerson also drove in runs.
Ben Welch and Boleware drove in the only runs for the Braves (10-9, 5-4), and Bryson Sumrall and Nate Conliff had their only hits.
“We struggled early … but we did enough offensively, caught a couple of breaks on balls that were tough plays,” said Sutton, whose team took advantage of three errors.
Rogers said, “We both had a couple of opportunities, but they capitalized. We’ve got to play better defense.”
Miscues were the difference, and it was South that struck first.
After Conliff’s single to start the third, Mark Diers bunted courtesy runner Conner Roney over, and with no one covering third, Roney went to third. He later scored on a wild pitch.
West answered in the home half. Bynum reached on an infield error to lead off, then John Mitchell made a nice running grab near the wall in left-center to rob Bryan of extra bases. After Thompson’s seeing-eye single up the middle, Harris’ groundout drove in a run, then Dickerson’s two-out single to right gave the home team a 2-1 lead.
Andrew Howard led off the fourth for South, beat a rundown to make it to second, moved to third on Max Sharp’s grounder back to Riley and scored on Welch’s groundout to second to tie it at 2.
In the bottom of the inning, the ’Stangs struck back again. Adam Bassett doubled with one out to chase Golemon and Boleware, a left-hander, came in and walked Bynum to load the bases.
Bryan smacked a grounder to third, but a run scored on a high throw home on the attempted forceout. Thompson followed with a run-scoring bloop to short center that fell between three fielders, and Harrison followed with another RBI groundout for West’s final run.
Diers walked to lead off the fifth and Sumrall followed with a single. After moving up on a wild pitch, Diers scored on Boleware’s sacrifice fly to right field, but Sumrall was thrown out by Luke Leggett while trying for third.
Bynum then came in and got the last six outs — literally — for the save, striking out four and handling two come-backers.
West loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the sixth, but Ducksworth came in to relieve Boleware. The first batter he faced, Dickerson, ripped a line shot to center, but Mitchell snagged it and gunned down Bynum at the plate for an inning-ending double play.
But Bynum struck out the bottom of the Braves’ order in the top of the seventh.
“He threw real well for us,” Sutton said of Bynum. “We expect that of him, to come in and throw strikes. At this point, we need as many good arms as possible.”
West earned a first-round bye with its run through the region, and will use that time to stay sharp, Sutton said.
“We’ve got depth on the mound and we have pitched well all year, played good defense and got timely hitting,” he said of his team’s success, whose only loss was to 6A Hattiesburg on March 3. “We’ve come from behind late four or five times, so the guys have learned how to win. That’s another good characteristic to have going into the playoffs.”
Rogers said he feels good about his team going into the postseason, too, because of playing teams like West and other strong programs throughout the schedule.
“We played well enough to get home-field (advantage), so we’re excited,” he said. “Once you hit the playoffs, all of the competition is tough … 5A is the SEC of baseball in the state. It’s a chance to play for a championship.”
South opens the postseason with Stone County Friday at 6 p.m. in a best-of-three series, while West will meet the winner of the Ole Brook-North Pike matchup.
to host playoff game
Northeast Jones is scheduled to play St. Stanislaus in the opening round of the Class 4A state playoffs beginning Friday in a best-of-three series that will be Friday, Saturday and Monday.
The Tigers (18-5) are scheduled to play Lamar Christian on the road at 3 p.m. today (Tuesday) in their final tuneup for the playoffs.
After suffering through a four-game losing streak late in the season, the Tigers are coming off a trifecta of blowout wins — 13-3 over Northeast Lauderdale and 14-4 and 17-5 over Mendenhall.
In Friday’s win at Mendenhall, the Tigers scored five in the third, four in the fourth and six in the fifth to end the game by way of the 10-run mercy rule.
The Tigers blasted three homes runs — one each by Patrick Little, Keagan Ward and Cole Mozingo — as part of the 15-hit attack. Russell Coleman went 4-for-4 with two RBIs, while Little went 3-for-4 with five RBIs. Tyler Harper added three hits and two RBIs, while Mozingo had two hits and drove in a pair of runs.
Little got the win on the mound with a strong four-inning effort that saw him give up two earned runs. He struck out six. Dylan Greer struck out two in an inning of relief.