West Jones baseball, the Soso Sluggers, Winner of Region 5-5A, the South State Champs and Winner of Class 5A baseball – the first of its kind in school history.
For all the West Jones sports teams throughout its history that got close and never hoisted a trophy, baseball head coach Trey Sutton said this win was for them.
“It’s for all sports,” Sutton said. “We’ve been so close, so many times. Football’s been so close [to a state title] – this is for those guys. The soccer program’s been so close – this is for those guys. We’ve had baseball teams that were so close. This is for those guys who never won it. You see the turnout tonight. It was unbelievable.”
“This community has wanted a state championship for so long, and I’m so proud of these kids for giving us that. They gave everyone here a state championship.”
West Jones, behind the pitching of senior south-paw Kris Riley and reliever Garrett McLaurin in addition to another great night at the plate, defeated Lafayette 7-2 Thursday night in Game 2 of the MHSAA Class 5A Championship series at Trustmark Park in Pearl to win the programs’ first state title. The Mustangs won Game 1 the day before 10-1 to set up the series sweep.
“I have waited so long for this, especially for this group of guys and this community,” said Sutton. “We’ve wanted this for the community for so long. We’ve been so close. There’s no greater feeling than running out of the dugout, knowing you just won a state championship.”
Riley tossed 5.2 innings as the Game 2 starter, giving up a pair of runs on five hits and two walks. The Pearl River CC signee led West Jones at the plate with his three hits, after going 0-5 in Game 1 the night prior.
“Riley is a senior, and he wanted it,” said Sutton. “He didn’t have a good night at the plate last night, but he came out and threw the ball well tonight and had three hits for us. He’s a competitor and a great kid. He wanted the ball tonight on the mound, and I’m so glad we were able to help us do this.”
“I was a little nervous at the beginning,” Riley said. “I had to get used to the crowd and how loud they were. Lafayette’s pitcher was filling up the strike zone, so I knew I had to do the same. It was a battle on the mound, but we came out with the win.”
McLaurin notched the save in 1.1 innings of work, surrendering just one hit. The senior replaced Riley in the sixth with two outs and the bases loaded. Two pitches later, McLaurin forced Lafayette to fly out, stranding three potential runs that could’ve tied the contest 5-5.
West Jones took its first lead in the bottom frame of the fifth. Tied 1-1, Southern Miss signee Dustin Dickerson doubled over Lafayette’s left fielder to score a pair of runs that gave the Soso Sluggers a 3-1 lead. Dickerson was surprised by an open field appearance during the team’s celebration by his dad Bobby Dickerson, who is currently the defensive coach for the Philadelphia Phillies. The tearful reunion and father-son embrace added to the special night.
Riley also scored two runs on a double in the four-run bottom-five.
“I didn’t have a good game the night before,” said Riley. “I just knew I had to wait on the ball and let my hands get through it.”
Insurance runs? Sure, why not. West Jones added two runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 7-2 lead into the last frame. McLaurin made quick work of the Commodores in the seventh, sending the dugout rushing onto the field to join in on the celebration – the first of its kind for West Jones in school history.
Sutton, who also played at West Jones, said team’s comradery was what set apart them apart.
“It was just the group of kids,” said Sutton. “They wanted to bleach their hair last year, but I wouldn’t let them. They tried again this year, and I let them. It’s just stuff like that shows how together they were. And they were able to get it done.”