Andrew Howard created an atmosphere that’s textbook in every South Jones-West Jones baseball rivalry. His one-out, game-tying two-run home run over the left field wall in the bottom of the first inning Friday night in Ellisville caused quite an electrifying stir among the home crowd and quieted the opposing side’s momentum. In the remaining six and a half innings, South Jones outscored West Jones 5-2 to take the final regular-season meeting between the two rivals, 7-4.
“[West Jones} came out and struck first,” said South Jones head coach Jordan Rogers.“ The big thing we wanted to do is answer back. Howard did a great job of that.
“That’s what happens in these kinds of games and makes them, so fun to watch. It’s great programs competing on a high level.”
South Jones (19-5, 7-2) avoided the regular season sweep versus West Jones (20-4, 8-1) to conclude Region 5-5A play. Despite the game not changing region standings, the Braves can use the win as momentum now that the playoffs draw even closer.
“They are the one, and we’re the two, and lots of people may say this one didn’t mean anything…but it’s another Friday night in Jones County, and it didn’t disappoint.”
After Howard’s game-tying dinger, South Jones took the lead for good on an RBI fielders choice by Tyler Ducksworth in the third. Ducksworth added more runs in the fourth on a two-out, two-run deep double to right-center to give the Braves a 6-2 lead. Marks Diers also had an RBI in the win, scoring Jamari Dease on a single to left field earlier in the fourth inning which gave the Braves a 4-2 lead.
Including Ducksworth’s double in the fourth, South Jones totaled eight base hits in the contest.
South Jones went through five pitchers Friday night. Senior John Mitchell, who started the game on the mound, lasted 4.1 innings. He gave up two earned runs on three hits and struck out five in 18 batters faced.
“The ultimate goal begins next Friday night, and we did want Mitchell to extended,” said Rogers. “He did a great job and gave us a chance to win. He could have [lasted] longer, but we wanted to see other guys in a significant ball game. And what not a greater venue that to do it right here against your cross-town rival. I was very proud of the guys who came in [in relief].”
Destin Shoemake, McCain Walters, Reeves Crowder and Ducksworth pitched in relief.
West Jones finished with six hits in the loss. Walker Thompson, Kelton Keene, Colson Harris, Cole Tolbert, Adam Bassett and Logan Kelly each had singles.
Luke Leggett took the loss on the mound for the Mustangs. Cole Tolbert pitched in relief.
West Jones will have a bye in the first round of the playoffs, having won the 5-5A district title. South Jones, who finished second, will play either Hattiesburg or North Pike in a potential three-game series in round one starting next Friday night.