South Jones had its prom on Friday night, and that was the last dance for the baseball Braves.
One bad inning in Friday’s opening game of the Class 5A first-round series with North Pike sealed their fate. The Jaguars scored all five of their runs in the fourth inning to steal one at South, 5-4.
The Jaguars (14-8) don’t have an impressive record, but they do have an impressive resumé — with two wins over defending state champion Hattiesburg, one over Pearl River Central and teams from Birmingham and Tennessee and Olive Branch.
The Braves finish their season with a 20-8 record.
In the opener, the Braves were leading 3-0 when things fell apart. Three errors and a hit batsman led to the Jaguars taking the lead in the fourth inning.
Tyler Ducksworth singled in a run in the fifth to make it a one-run game and the Braves had the bases loaded in the sixth and seventh, but couldn’t push across another run.
John Mitchell struck out six and allowed seven hits in six innings. McCain Walters and Destin Shoemake combined to pitch the final inning.
The Jaguars used three pitchers — freshman Jake Martin, and seniors Brady Johnson and Kole Alford — who combined to strike out five, walk seven and scatter three hits.
Nate Conliff and Chad Moses drove in runs for the Braves.
Early homer spurs N. Pike in Game 2
By Travis Connelley
Not even 24 hours removed from pulling out a nail-biting 5-4 win over South Jones to open a best-of-3 playoff series, the North Pike Jaguars returned home and carried that momentum over into Game 2, defeating the Braves 8-5 to advance.
And while the Jaguars brought the momentum into the game, it was the Braves who struck first. Senior Nate Conliff singled to right, allowing John Mitchell to score, putting South Jones ahead 1-0.
However, that lead did not last long as North Pike answered right back in the bottom of the first. Kran Howell got on base after being hit by a pitch and he touched home three batters later when Jimbo Harrell launched a ball over the left-field wall, rocketing the Jaguars ahead 2-1.
The home run seemed to provide a spark for sophomore starting pitcher Peyton Badon, who got over his rough start in the first inning, sitting down the Braves in order in the second.
Badon got some additional help in the third and it came following a positive start to the inning thanks to Howell. The senior led off with a single to center. He scored during the ensuing at-bat when Kole Alford smacked a two-run home run to left, increasing the Jaguar lead to 4-1.
The Jaguars enjoyed the three-run lead heading into the fourth but the Braves mounted a comeback. A Logan Odom RBI double scored Tyler Ducksworth followed by BJ Hawthorne scoring when Cody Walters hit into a fielder’s choice to close the gap to one. Two batters later, Odom touched home on a dropped third strike to tie the game. Then leadoff hitter Mark Diers singled to center, bringing Chad Moses home. giving South Jones its first lead at 5-4.
The hosts did not let that inning deter them as they tied the game at five the following inning on a sacrifice fly from Alford, allowing Badon to touch home.
In the top of the fifth, Howell took over pitching duties and, despite South Jones getting a baserunner on via an error, he quickly regrouped to shut down the Braves and get out of the inning unscathed.
The North Pike offense stepped up once again in the fifth as the Jaguars went on a run. Following a Harrell single to center, Alex Perry and Brady Johnson recorded back-to-back RBI singles, pushing the North Pike lead to 7-5. The Jaguars got one more later in the inning when Gage Harbour reached on an error, allowing CJ McArthur to score.
Howell came back out and shut down the Braves in order in both the sixth and seventh, preserving the win.