Led by Smith, District 5 blasts District 1 in State Games with offensive firepower

District 5 concluded Day 1 of the State Games of Mississippi Baseball Tournament in the best possible way for themselves. Three pitchers – Sam Hill (West Jones), Mason Willis (West Lauderdale) and Walker Gable (Taylorsville) – combined for a shutout performance while Mason Smith (NEJ) led District 5 offensively with two hits, including a two-run double in the third, as District 5 defeated District 1 in a mercy-rule ending 10-0 at Meridian Community College Tuesday evening.

“We swung it,” said District 5 head coach Dusty Hillman (Taylorsville). “We hit the ball well. The first inning we did not do a whole lot, but after that, we swung it well for four innings.”

The two-run double to the right-center wall by Smith in the bottom frame of the third was just a piece of the action. District 5 added four more runs in the frame to gander a 9-0 lead over District 1 on the opening day of the tournament. An RBI double off the bat of Logan White (Wayne Academy) in the fifth ended the game by way of the mercy-rule as District 5 stays in the winners’ bracket heading into Day 2. 

After going down in order in the first inning, District 5 started the 10-run evening with a three-spot in the bottom of the second. Tanner Parker (West Lauderdale) highlighted the three-run frame with a two-run single. Smith crossed home plate minutes later for the third run on an error in the field at second base by District 1. 

Will Hodo (Wayne Academy) and Kason James (Taylorsville) also had two hits apiece. James set up the two-run double by Smith in the third with his shallow single to right field followed by a District 1 fielding error on the same play that advanced runners – including James – into scoring position. 

“That inning was really big,” said Hillman. “We wanted to get a few other local players in the game but [with innings like the third] ended the game early. But with being in the winners’ bracket, we have two more days to go and get everyone some playing time.”

Sam Hill got the start for District 5 on the mound. Hill tossed two scoreless innings before being replaced by Mason Willis, who followed with the same in the third and fourth. Walker Gable closed out the evening on the mound. Gable gave up a leadoff double and a walk in the fifth inning but recovered by tossing three straight strikeouts to end the threat. 

Hill had an inning with three strikeouts as well. His though came in the first inning, framing up three District 1 batters in the four he faced.

“All those guys threw in big games during the season and against really good competition,” said Hillman, “so it’s nothing new. But our pitching was dominant.”

The 10-0 win was big noted Hillman, who’s been a part of the State Games of Mississippi Baseball Tournament for a while. 

“To win the first one is big,” said Hillman. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, and you got to win the first one to give yourself a chance. You don’t want to start in the losers bracket. Whenever you can come out here and get a win, it’s a big plus.”

District 5 will play again on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. They’ll face District 4, who defeated District 8 3-2 on Tuesday. 

Notes: 

Players from our area that started the game: Cole Tolbert (West Jones) – shortstop, three-hole hitter; Kason James (Taylorsville) – third base, five-hole hitter; Sam Hill (West Jones) – starting pitcher, six-hole hitter; Mason Smith (Northeast Jones) – right field, seven-hole hitter; Mark Diers (South Jones) – centerfield, nine-hole hitter.

Players from our area that entered the game in some capacity: Eli Collins (Northeast Jones), Walker Gable (Taylorsville), Jake Parker (Stringer), Dalton Tanner (Northeast Jones), Adam Bassett (West Jones).

Sports Editor

James is a graduate of Stringer High School and Jones County Junior College. He is an award-winning AP and MS Press photographer, writer, and layout designer.

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