Fans got all their money’s worth and more at Saturday’s showdown in Ellisville between South Jones and West Jones. The Mustangs rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the seventh inning to score three runs and earn a hard-fought 4-3 win over the cross-county-rival Braves.
Although the rivalry no longer holds postseason implications as a region matchup, no one could tell based on the effort exuded by both teams from start to finish. Bragging rights were still at stake, and that was more than enough to motivate the Mustangs (12-4, 4-0 Region 6-5A), who entered the weekend on a five-game winning streak.
“We’re all friends off the field, but we really want to beat each other whenever we compete,” West Jones head coach Trey Sutton said. “I’m sure everyone who paid to be here today got their money’s worth. It was a great game, but it was probably a lot more fun for y’all than it was for me.”
The loss ended an eight-game winning streak for the Braves (12-7, 5-0 Region 5-5A) that dated back to March 13. South Jones head coach Mason Strickland said as much as he and his players wanted the win, he’s still excited about the direction they’re headed as they prepare to re-enter region play.
“This is the way we want to see our guys fight every time we take the field,” Strickland said. “Obviously, this was West Jones. It’s a big rivalry that our kids really look forward to. But at the same time, we’ve been battling hard all year long, and everything is starting to come together for us. We had a blemish (Saturday), but we can turn the page in the next game and start rolling again.”
Stellar pitching was the story through four scoreless innings. South Jones sophomore Connor Moore received an ovation as he left the mound after keeping the bases clean for 2 1/2 innings, striking out three without allowing a hit. Alden Spencer was equally impressive through the following five outs, allowing no hits and striking out two.
West Jones junior Jaxon Rayborn was king of the hill through five innings for the Mustangs, holding the Braves hitless through three and scoreless through four, with seven strikeouts.
The stalemate was finally broken in the top of the fifth. West Jones senior Caleb Flynn led off with a single and scored the first run on a sac fly to deep center field by one of the afternoon’s top performers, junior Camden Clark.
Fortune favored the Braves in the bottom of the fifth, when junior Chase Billiot capitalized on the only fielding error of the day to score from first base and tie the game, 1-1. The momentum carried over into the sixth, as they claimed the lead with three hits and two more runs scored by Dylan Causey and Cambridge McDaniel.
South Jones junior and Southern Miss commit Cole Richardson got a rise from the crowd when he reached a blazing 94 mph on the outfield radar while warming up to close out the game in the seventh, but patience at the plate paid off in a big way for the Mustangs. With bases loaded, Clark tied the game with a line-drive single to center field, and fellow junior Bergin Bullock scored the go-ahead run on a sac fly hit by Dakota Smith.
“We all know Cole has a great arm, but I was really proud of our kids for just digging down and finding a way to win this one,” Sutton said.
Junior Kale Matthews was the winning pitcher, striking out two and allowing only one hit in the bottom sixth.
Clark added to his two-RBI performance at the plate by earning the save in the bottom seventh, allowing no hits and striking out the final two batters to seal the 4-3 win.
The Braves were scheduled to host Northeast Jones (16-3, 4-2 Region 5-4A) on Monday, but results were unavailable at press time. They’ll travel to Hattiesburg this evening (Tuesday) for the first of two games this week against the region-rival Tigers (8-10, 4-1 Region 5-5A). The opening pitch is set for 6 p.m.
The Mustangs will try to push their winning streak to seven when they return to region play to host Natchez (7-7, 0-4 Region 6-5A) today (Tuesday) at 5 p.m.
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