West Jones headed to Pearl after sweep of PRC in South State series

As a West Jones player, Trey Sutton felt the sorrow of defeat in a South State baseball series. As a coach at his alma mater, Sutton and company celebrated a South State series win. 

West Jones swept Pearl River Central with an 8-3 win in Game 2 Friday night in Carriere.

“I just love this bunch of kids,” said Sutton. “I told them this means so much to me as a coach has been a player [at West Jones] in this situation and fallen short. They’ve stepped up and did an outstanding job since we’ve been in the playoffs. It means the world to me to have this opportunity next week.”

The Mustangs cruised through the South playoff bracket without a loss, sweeping Long Beach, Picayune and then PRC after earning a first-round bye by winning Region 5-5A in the regular season. 

“We’re playing good baseball right now,” Sutton added. “As I’ve said before if you’re going to get hot and playing your best, now is the time to be doing it. We’re swinging it well, pitching it well and playing good defense. We have to keep plugging away and doing what we’re doing.”

Pearl River Community College signee Kris Riley came one out short of a complete game on the mound. Riley breezed through four innings without giving up a hit. A bases loaded two-out walk in the bottom of the final stanza was the only run allowed by Riley. 

“It’s just a senior stepping up in a big moment,” said Sutton. “He wanted it. He’s been great for me for three years. There at the end, he was give-out. He wanted to stay in and finish, but we had to go to Luke [Leggett], another senior, who came in and finished it for us.”

Riley struck out nine Blue Devil batters in 6 and two-thirds innings.

“I knew I couldn’t get too amped up; otherwise I’d be throwing it everywhere,” said Riley. “I knew I had to stay in my zone and do what I needed to do. 

“I always wanted to be in this situation and go to Pearl. [Now that I am], it feels amazing.”

West Jones provided Riley with ample run support on offense. A four-run fifth inning put the Mustangs in the driver’s seat. Three straight one-out RBI singles by Cole Tolbert, Kelton Keene, and Adam Bassett highlighted the inning. Tolbert and Keene led the “Soso Sluggers” with three hits apiece. 

“I did my job on the mound, and my teammates did their job,” added Riley. “They did amazing, and it helped me out. And that’s how we came out with the W.”

Walker Thompson and Garrett McLaurin also had a multi-hit night. Thompson gave West Jones a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning on a two-out, two-run double, then scored the seventh Mustangs’ run on a sacrifice fly in the team’s four-run fifth. 

“We didn’t hit the ball well in our first playoff series against Long Beach,” said Sutton. “But that was a point of emphasis for us ever since then. Our kids put in the work [to correct it], and the results have been what we were hoping them to be.”

Colson Harris, Riley and Bassett aided with solo hits. 

With one-out left to complete the game, PRC narrowed West Jones’ lead 8-3 on a bases loaded two-run single. Mustangs reliever Luke Leggett forced a groundout to end the game, clearing the team’s bench in celebration. 

West Jones faces the winner of the North State series between Lafayette and Saltillo. Game 1 of the MHSAA Class 5A Championship series is set for Tuesday night at Trustmark Park in Pearl.

“I think this is big,” said Sutton when asked about sweeping the series and getting the extra rest before Tuesday. “Some teams haven’t played Game 1 yet. Which I think the 5A North has gotten one game in and maybe playing tonight, but it was big to get these two games in. I didn’t think we’d be able too, especially with all the rain today, but we had a little window, and we’re able to play it.”

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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