Tigers power their way to 1-0 series lead in South StateBy CAMAL PETRO,
SOSO – West Jones’ Dustin Dickerson has been a bonafide ace for the Mustangs this season, and he started Thursday’s Game 1 with Hattiesburg by mowing down the Tigers the first time through the order.
The second time, however, Hattiesburg had better approaches at the plate and strung together quality at-bats one after another en route to a 6-3 win over West Jones.
“I noticed that Dickerson was leaving the ball up,” Hattiesburg coach Joe Hartfield said. “He was pitching hard but I think he left the ball up a few more times and we were able to take advantage of it. Then we had some guys going straight to the ball with their bat head, we didn’t have the first few innings.”
Tigers will go for the sweep Friday at 7 p.m. inside the friendly confines of Smokie Harrington Park.
“I feel like it’s the same thing that happened with South Jones when the series reset when we got the win at their place and we came back home,” Hattiesburg senior Joe Gray said. “I feel like the best chance to get this game and this series out of the way is (Friday).”
Gray led a Hattiesburg offense that recorded 11 hits with a 3-for-4 performance from the dish, adding two runs and two RBI. Trailing 1-0, he singled then reached third on an error by the left fielder in the fourth inning to start a rally, then belted a two-run home run in the fifth to blow the game open 5-1.
“I just saw the ball up and I took it,” Gray said of his homer. “I knew I wasn’t going to let him get away with a ball straight like that because I don’t get to see many balls that straight. Out of his hands, I just saw it and knew I had to capitalize on it.”
The Mustangs were the ones to strike first, though. In the bottom of the third, Evan Bynum and Hayden Bryan led off the inning with a double and a single to put runners on the corners with no outs. After a strikeout, Colson Harris’ sacrifice fly to right plated Bynum for a 1-0 West Jones lead.
Hattiesburg’s starting pitcher, senior Dexter Jordan, would settle into the contest and shut down the Mustangs’ bats for most of the game.
“Going down 1-0, you just try to get the job done,” Jordan said. “We just want to throw fastballs and get outs, then when we get to the plate, we have to make sure we don’t change our approach and keep adding more runs to get a cushion.”
Jordan pitched the complete game while scattering seven hits with four strikeouts. He allowed three runs – all earned – and walked just one. He wanted redemption after last week’s South Jones loss in Game 1 of the third-round series.
“To be honest, I knew one was coming,” Jordan said of the loss. “You can’t win every game, and that loss made me lock in on some more mechanics that I was messing up on and getting away with. I went into the bullpen and fixed them, then came out on the field and accomplished them.”
Senior Jay Reedy picked up two RBI off a 1-for-3 night at the plate, and senior A.J. Stinson added a pair of hits, too. Senior Jaden Richardson, who went 2-for-3, had a key double down the left field line in the fifth inning to start the fifth-inning rally.