The last time Kris Riley faced a Pearl River Central pitcher, he walked off the playoff series on a home run in Soso. A year later, in his first at-bat vs. PRC in Game 1 of the Class 5A South State Championship series, Riley picked up where he left off with another home run. His solo blast over the right-field wall in Soso tied the game 1-1 in the second inning and sparked more offensive production at the plate for West Jones.
West Jones hit two more dingers Wednesday night in Soso, including a three-run home run off the light pole in left field by Adam Bassett and a two-run blast in the same inning by Walker Thompson to beat PRC in Game 1, 8-1.
“Austin Dean came right at us early,” said West Jones head baseball coach Trey Sutton. “He did a good job [on the mound for them], but we were able to barrel up some balls. Kris had a great swing on his home run.”
PRC gave Dean a one-run cushion in the top of the second. Ole Miss signee Hayden Durhurst scored the game’s first run on a two-out RBI double to left field. Riley’s solo home run in the bottom frame tied the game 1-1.
“Dean had us in the middle innings,” said Sutton. “We were able to break through though, especially in the fifth and sixth innings.”
Dean and PRC struggled in the fourth inning with two outs. After giving up two straight two-out walks, Dean gave up an RBI single to left field off the bat of Adam Bassett. Bassett wasn’t done on the night either. With West Jones leading 3-1 in the sixth, Bassett drilled another Dean pitch off the light pole behind the left field wall with two runners on. His three-run blast extended West Jones’s lead to five runs, 6-1.
“Bassett was huge for us tonight,” said Sutton. “He had an RBI single to give us a 2-1 lead, and then came through with a big home run [in the sixth]. That gave us some cushion. Walker Thompson put a good swing on one, too.”
After PRC replaced Dean in the inning with reliever Branson Droddy, Thompson showed a bit of his power, blasting a two-run jack over the wall in centerfield to give West Jones an 8-1 lead.
“We have some kids that are seeing the ball well right now,” added Sutton. “And it’s a good time to be doing that.”
Southern Miss signee Dustin Dickerson pitched the entire seven-inning contest for West Jones. Dickerson allowed five hits through four innings, then delivered three straight innings of three-up, three-down work.
“PRC came out with a good game plan,” said Sutton. “They were aggressive at the plate. But once Dickerson settled in, he put a clamp on them later in the game. He did an outstanding job.”
Dickerson allowed one earned run on five hits and struck out 12 PRC batters.
West Jones travels to PRC Thursday night, depending on how the weather plays out.
“I told our guys that PRC is a tough ball club,” said Sutton. “That is how they’re taught. They’re going to come out and not lay down. They’ll have their backs against the wall because their season’s on the line. So our message is to bring the same energy in Game 2 and play like we’ve been playing.”