PEARL — With their backs against the wall – needing a win to keep playing – and coming off a heroic comeback effort in game one against Magee, Booneville knew exactly what they had to do to earn a win against the Trojans in the MHSAA Class 3A Championship Series Thursday at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
Senior Jackson McCoy took the Blue Devils on his back, pitching a complete game five-hitter while adding a monstrous two-run homer in the top of the first. Booneville defeated Magee 4-2 to even the best-of-three Class 3A Championship Series 1-1.
Game three, to decide it all, is set for a 1 p.m. first pitch Saturday at Trustmark Park.
The Devils were the beneficiary of a wild throw to first by the Trojans shortstop on a failed double-play attempt in the top half of the seventh, allowing runners to score from second and third with what turned out to be the winning runs.
Just as Magee did Tuesday in game one (a 5-3 win), by taking a first-inning lead and hanging on, the Devils returned the favor with Jackson’s 350-foot shot over the left/centerfield wall to grab an early 2-0 advantage. Catcher Ben Davis scored ahead of McCoy after he reached on a two-out single to left field.
Senior John Daniel Deaton added his second triple of the season immediately after but was stranded when Bryce Lindsey went down on strikes to end the threat.
From that point, Coach Kevin Williams’ club managed just three more hits the rest of the way, but that was enough as it turned out.
Senior Brennon McNair went the distance for Magee, tossing a six-hitter with four strikeouts and three walks. He also hit a batter.
“It wasn’t a big offensive day for either team today so it really came down to some solid pitching and timely defense,” said Williams. “Jackson was huge for us today, but he has done it all year for us. We’ve put him in key situations and games several times and he’s come up big for us and today he did it again. A great effort on the mound and a big home run … what can I say?”
It was the Trojan’s defense that failed them in this game. They committed two, with the second being the difference in the contest.
In comparison, game two was a close mirror image to game one. Only, the Trojans never relinquished the lead in their victory in the series opener.
McCoy’s first-inning dinger was reportedly the first one of the 2021 state tournament in any classification. Trustmark Park is a Double-A stadium with deeper dimensions than most high school fields, and the wind usually doesn’t blow out to help balls carry farther. It was his seventh round-tripper of the season.
And it was McCoy’s ninth victory of the year without a loss on the hill.
Magee went down in order in the bottom of the first as the game MVP forced the Trojans 1-2-3 hitters into a pair of infield ground outs and an infield rule pop-out to shortstop Kyle Church.
However, the Blue Devils couldn’t add to their lead as John Adam White grounded into a 4-3 double play after Gage Harrellson reached on a single to left. Hayden Donahue grounded out to short to end the top of the second.
McCoy continued his dominance on the mound in the bottom half of the second as he struck out two Trojans while picking off McNair at first after he reached on a leadoff walk.
Booneville went down in order once more in the top of the third before Magee went 1-2-3 in the bottom half of the frame.
The Blue Devils once again looked to make something happen with two outs in the top of the fourth. Lindsey reached on an error by the Trojans’ third baseman. he advanced to second on the bad throw. Harrellson came to the plate hoping to drive Lindsey home but grounded out to short.
Magee mounted their first serious threat of the contest in the bottom of the fourth but came up empty.
Pittman led off with a single to left followed by a diving catch for out number one by centerfielder John Daniel Deaton. McNair then reached on an error as his grounder got past Church at short and into centerfield. The play was ruled an E6 and put runners on first and third with one out.
That’s when things went sour for the Trojans as they attempted a double steal. Davis threw to second for a pick-off attempt that was unsuccessful. But Ben Sandlin saved the day for BHS when he threw out Pittman as he attempted to steal home. McCoy then struck out Jordan McGee to end the inning with Booneville still clinging to a 2-0 lead.
The pitching duel continued until Magee started to put some balls in play in the bottom of the sixth, eventually tying the contest. And it all came with two outs.
Cayden Bridges flew out to Carson Nash in center followed by another fly-out, this time to Hayden Donahue in right. Adam May began the two-out rally as he reached on a free pass. McNair then lined the first of three consecutive singles when his hot shot bounced off bag at third, holding May at second. Magee then singled to right, driving in May from second and moving McNair to third to make it 2-1. Banks Teater then sent a single to left, driving in Magee to tie the game at 2-all.
McCoy then got Kaden Harper to fly out to deep right to end the inning.
Entering the ninth it was a new game.
John Adam White and Donahue reached safely to start the final frame. With two on and no outs, Church flew out to shallow right field. However, White took a chance, tagged up, and advanced to third, leaving runners at the corners with one away. McNair then hit Sandlin with a pitch, loading the bases for Davis. The junior catcher lined a ground shot to short but the throw to first for the double play was off target allowing White and Donahue to score from second and third respectively, allowing the Blue Devils to regain the lead.
Deaton flew out to center to end the threat but the damage had been done.
McCoy waltzed to the mound needing three outs and he got them in order, striking out McLaurin and Matthew Russell before getting Bridges to ground out to him to end the game.
Now the stage is set for game three for all the marbles as Booneville and Magee face off Saturday with one common goal: win and bring home the state championship.
“I don’t really believe our players need much of a pep talk from me, they know what’s on the line and they know what they have to do. We’ll be ready and give it our best shot Saturday and hopefully we’ll bring a state title back to Booneville,” Williams said in conclusion.