The Class 5A South State semifinal round has a definitive “Southern Six” flavor to it this season.
Three of the four remaining teams alive are from the six most southern counties in the state, as East Central faces Picayune and Vancleave meets West Jones. The next round of play starts Tuesday night with games in Hurley and Soso.
Defending Class 5A state champion East Central was the first of the squads to move on from second-round play with a pair of wins over Florence in a three-day span last week.
The Hornets wrapped up the two-game sweep with a 6-2 road win on Thursday. East Central, after thumping the Eagles at home 13-3 on Tuesday, wasted no time in continuing its success in the second game jumping out to a comfortable 5-0 lead after two frames and cruising to the win.
Brandt Dickerson had two hits for the Hornets, including a triple, and he drove in a run also while T.J. Dunsford also had two hits and an RBI as well. Eli Smith, Logan Terry and Nate Trochessett also drove in a run apiece in the win.
Smith started on the hill and hurled six shutout stanzas allowing seven hits and striking out seven in the process. Haydn Porter relieved in the seventh and gave up both Florence runs.
East Central’s opponent this week, Picayune, also swept its way into the Class 5A South State semifinals with a pair of wins over Wayne County.
The Maroon Tide wrapped up the series with a 6-1 win over the War Eagles on Saturday. Picayune won game one at home on Tuesday 4-1.
Picayune jumped out to a quick 3-0 advantage in the first inning on Saturday to set the wheels in motion for the win. Brady Robertson led the Maroon Tide at the plate in the win with a game-high three hits including a home run, and he also drove in two runs. Landon Watts also drove in a pair of runs, while Kyler King added two hits and an RBI to the winning effort as well. Sophoro Parker Helton registered a double.
Cooper Moreaux started and tossed four frames to pick up the win.
Meanwhile, it took all three games for the Vancleave and South Jones series to be settled. The Bulldogs went on the road to Ellisville Saturday and came home with a 4-1 win to move on.
Vancleave tallied two runs in the second stanza and followed that up with two more runs in the third frame to seal the deal. Tanner Willis had a key two-run single for the Bulldogs, and Martin Shaw also drove in a run. Asher Henley paced VHS at the plate with two hits in the deciding game.
Sophomore Hunter Harper came up with a dominant pitching performance for the Bulldogs. In perhaps the biggest game of his young career, Harper hurled a complete game four-hitter and struck out the same number in picking up the win.
After opening the series with a 5-2 road in on Tuesday, the Braves traveled to Vancleave on Thursday and beat the Bulldogs 3-1 to even up the series. The Braves grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning with junior Chase Billiot hitting a two-run triple providing all the runs South Jones ould need.
On the mound, Vancleave junior Tyler West pitched well in the losing effort. He pitched all seven innings and tallied nine strikeouts.
Offensively, the Bulldogs managed four total hits. Junior Hunter Parker accounted for three of these hits, knocking two singles and a double on three plate appearances.