Baseball diamonds will be alive with action around the Pine Belt starting Friday night with six area teams setting their sights winning a state championship.
The championships are scheduled for the week of May 14-18 at Trustmark Park in Pearl, home of the Mississippi Braves.
All series are best-of-3.
South Jones (20-5) vs. N. Pike (10-8)
The Braves (20-5) will be at home to open the playoffs against North Pike (10-8) at 6 p.m. Friday.
South Jones finished second in Region 5-5A and will play the third-seeded Jaguars from Region 7.
The Braves appear to be hitting their stride heading into the playoffs, having won seven straight games, including a 9-4 victory on Tuesday over Enterprise-Lincoln on Senior Night.
South Jones trailed 4-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth before erupting for seven runs. Mark Diers went 4-for-4, while Nate Conliff had three hits and two RBIs. Andrew Howard and Chad Moses each had two hits as the Braves knocked out 14 total hits.
Logan Odom pitched one inning of relief to get the victory.
For the season, Conliff leads the Braves offensively with a .394 batting average, with six doubles, a home run and 17 RBIs. Fellow senior Tyler Ducksworth is hitting .385 with eight doubles, a triple, two home runs and 17 RBIs. Andrew Howard has hit two home runs and John Mitchell has hit three round-trippers. As a team, the Braves are hitting .297.
Mitchell also leads the Braves’ pitching staff with a 5-1 record and a 1.40 ERA. He has struck out 42 and walked only seven.
Kole Alford leads North Pike with a .458 batting average with seven doubles. The Jaguars are hitting .323 as a team. Parker Phillips is second on the team with a .444 batting average and three home runs.
The winner of this series will play Brookhaven, the winner of Region 6, starting April 25. The Panthers (14-9-1) finished unbeaten in the region, but the bottom three region teams finished with a combined record of 13-25.
• West Jones received a bye in the first round and will play the winner of the Forest Hill-Long Beach series. West Jones was scheduled to play at Brandon today (Thursday) in the regular-season finale.
NE Jones (15-10) vs. Raymond (8-15)
Northeast Jones (15-10), which finished second in Region 5-4A, will suit up Friday at home at 6 p.m. against Raymond (8-15) with a possible playoff showdown in the second round looming against perennial power Sumrall, which will play Pass Christian in the playoff opener.
Game 2 is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday at Raymond.
The Tigers are coming off a 13-11 victory over Perry Central on Monday. In that game, Tyler Harper had two hits, scored two runs and had four RBIs in a game that saw the teams combine for nine errors.
For the season, Dayvis McLeod leads the team with a .443 batting average with five doubles and 25 RBIs. Harper is hitting .412 with two homers and 31 RBIs.
Senior Calabe Collins leads Raymond with a .444 batting average.
If NEJ gets by Raymond, it would face its toughest test of the season against a Sumrall team that has won 11 straight games and has a 24-3 record. This season, Sumrall has beaten defending Class 5A champion Hattiesburg, West Jones, Petal, Oak Grove and Gulfport. Two of its three losses were to out-of-state teams.
Taylorsville (18-8) vs. Puckett (11-7)
The Tartars (18-8), champions of Region 5-2A, will open the playoffs Friday against Puckett (11-7) at 6 p.m. at Taylorsville.
Junior Kasen James leads Taylorsville with a .432 batting average, while freshman Karson Evans is hitting .394 with 10 doubles, two home runs and 21 RBIS.
The winner will face the winner of the Enterprise-Clarke/Richton series.
• Bay Springs (7-9), the fourth-place team in Region 5-2A, will open the playoffs Friday at 6 at Mize (17-10).
The winner will play either St. Patrick or Bogue Chitto.
Stringer (17-7) vs. East Marion (N/A)
Top-seeded Stringer (17-7) will open the playoffs at home Friday at 6 p.m. against East Marion.
The Red Devils are led by freshman Jackson Parker, who is hitting .412 with five doubles, six home runs and 27 RBIs.
The winner of this series will play either Ethel or West Lowndes in the second round.