SEMINARY, MS (WDAM) - The opening game of the Class 3A South State title series Thursday night simply came down to the team that got the big hits in the big moments.
And no one had bigger hits than Seminary High School ninth-grader Connor Jones.
The freshman started the scoring with a sharp, two-run single in the first inning and then punctuated Seminary's seven-run second inning with the first home run of his career, a grand slam, as the Bulldogs rolled past West Marion High School 11-1 in a game called after 4 ½ innings.
"He's been one of our best hitters all year, and going into the year, I didn't think he was going to contribute at any point other than JV," Seminary coach Jeff Graves said. "But then started seeing some things with his swing, and said, 'Hey, this kid can hit. That's his first home run ever, a grand slam, so that's not a bad way to start. It's going to be kind of hard to top that."
The second game of the best-of-three series is set for 6 p.m. Friday in Foxworth, weather permitting. If the inclement weather forecast for Friday comes through and postpones the contest, Game Two would be played at 6 p.m. Saturday.
The series winner heads to Trustmark Park in Pearl next week to play for the Class 3A state championship.
Jones was one of three Bulldogs with two hits, as Seminary (21-7) collected 10 hits off West Marion starter Trace McNabb (6-5) and reliever Jayden Duncan. Adarius Myers had an RBI-double and single, while Landry McQueen hit two singles.
Logan Kelly added a run-scoring double, Dalton Cummins an RBI-single and Felix McCullum and Logan Jones each hit singles.
West Marion (18-12), which lost for the third time this season to Seminary, picked up seven hits against Cummins (7-2), including a double and single each by Duncan and Dawson Robbins.
But the Trojans could only manage a single run in the fourth inning, when Duncan's double to the wall in left field scored Eric Smith.
Smith, Dalton Raynes and Shelby Terrell each had a single for the Trojans.
But West Marion stranded a runner at third base in the third inning and runners at third and first bases in both the fourth and fifth innings.
"We couldn't come up with the big hit," West Marion coach Derrick Jenkins said. "The second inning was an inning that, obviously, if you look at the scoreboard it's 4-1 instead of 11-1, and we'd have a shot. I think the pressure got to us a little bit, but I think it'll be a different story come (Friday)."
Despite Thursday's one-sided victory, Graves said a loss in the South State finals last season has been in the back of his team's mind all season.
"Last year, we got eliminated at this time, so we have had that stuck in our craw for a year," Graves said. "As a matter of fact, we have increased our intensity in practice, and made a concerted effort to do that. We've riding guys hard, just telling them there are no cakewalks and you're not guaranteed a win no matter how many times you've beat a team in a year. I felt like at the beginning of the playoffs that we'd see them at this point."