FOXWORTH, MS (WDAM) _ The third time proved to be the charm for West Marion High School when it came to St. Andrew’s Episcopal High School and the Class 3A baseball playoffs.
And a young man who never had pitched in a playoff game before led the way.
Brett Jenkins delivered on the mound and at the plate Monday night, as the Trojans wrestled a series-clinching victory away from their recent postseason nemesis, clinching a second-round, best-of-three set with a come-from-behind, 4-3 victory over the Saints.
The Trojans trailed 3-0 after two innings, but a two-out double by Clay Blocker in the third inning pulled West Marion within a run and another two-out double by Jenkins in the fifth inning drove in the game-tying and game-winning runs.
“I’ve pitched, but I’ve never pitched in a big (game), especially not in a playoff game,” said Jenkins, who scattered seven hits in a seven-inning, compete-game effort. “This was a big moment for me, especially beating St. Andrew’s.”
The Saints (15-15), the defending Class 3A state champions, had ended the Trojans’ baseball season twice in the past three years, including 2018.
West Marion (20-9) will face Wesson High School (19-11) in the Class 3A South State semifinals. The best-of-three series starts in Foxworth at 6 p.m. Thursday.
“Over the years, we’ve gotten over some hurdles,” West Marion coach Derrick Jerkins said. “Southeast Lauderdale, when I was an assistant here, (it was) putting us out, and we finally got over the hurdle and put (it) out of the playoffs last year.
“We finally beat Seminary once, we finally beat Columbia once, and now, we’re getting over another hurdle, beating St. Andrew’s.”
The Saints didn’t go down without a fight.
St. Andrew’s scored an unearned in the first inning on Holland Townes’ double and then scored two runs in the second inning on a fielder’s choice ground ball and a throwing error that allowed the second run to come across.
While the Saints held a healthy lead, they also had bunched five of their seven hits in those two innings, left men stranded at second and third base with one out in the first inning and came up with only the two runs after the loading the bases with no outs in the second.
“I thought they started out sluggish, and if we could have hit, we probably could have had a five- or six-nothing lead,” Saints coach Mark Fanning said. “For example, in the second inning, we loaded the bases with nobody out and the top of our order coming up, and we get two runs and the only reason we got those two was because they threw a double-play ball away.
“That was a big key to the game.”
West Marion awoke in the third inning,
After Logan Fortenberry walked with one out, Saints starter Seth McCaughan got what looked like a double-play grounder, but the ball was bobbled, and St. Andrew’s was only able to get the force out at second base.
The Trojans cashed in when Jayden Duncan dropped a single into short left field and Blocker, who had been a thorn in the Saints’ side all series, skied a double that scored both Josh Boone and Duncan.
“We’ve kind of said this has been the year of the ‘almost’ play,” said Fanning, who lost seven seniors off his 2018 squad. “You know, ‘we almost got to a ball, we almost turned a double play, we almost made a catch,’ and because we weren’t as strong this year, we needed (to make) some of those plays.”
Jenkins (4-0) only got stronger as the game went on. The Saints managed just two baserunners over the final four innings, one on infield, bloop single and the other by error, and Jenkins recorded five of his six strikeouts down the stretch.
“My curveball,” Jenkins said. “That was something I really worked on in the bullpen before the game.”
In the fifth inning, Boone doubled to the wall in center field with one out. McCaughan got a pop up for the second out, bringing Blocker to the plate.
The Saints intentionally walked him, bringing Jenkins up.
The big left-hander, who normally plays first base, ran the count full, including a dribbler down the third-base line that just rolled foul in front of the bag.
Two pitches later, Jenkins smoked the next pitch into the left-center field gap, scoring both Boone and courtesy runner Tyler Aikens.
“They got their right guys up at the right time,” Fanning said. “That last time, we kind of picked our poison. Blocker had hurt us the whole series, and while Jenkins had hit good, too, we thought we could get him.
“He ended up working it to 3-2, and then he got a pitch to hit after fouling off a couple.”
McCaughan (4-5) went six innings, allowing four runs on five hits.
Boone, Blocker and Dalton Raynes each hit doubles for West Marion, while Jenkins and Duncan added singles.
Townes had a double for the Saints, while McCaughan, Avery Thomas, Matthew Azordegan, Noel Wiggs, Nathan Barham and Brett Ashy each hit singles.