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Blakely pitches West Jones past Panthers

LAUREL — The West Jones Mustangs used a simple formula in gametwo of their South State 4A championship series with Brookhaven -score some runs early and give the ball to Jonathan Blakeney.

The plan worked like a charm as West Jones defeated the Panthers8-2, here Saturday afternoon before an overflow crowd at MustangField. The victory evens up the series at 1-1 with the decidingthird game set for Monday at 7 p.m. in Brookhaven.

“We felt like we needed to come out and set the tone early withour offense,” said West Jones head coach Wade Clark. “We felt likewe were going to play defense and we were going to pitch well. Wefelt like we needed to light it up a little bit and get somemomentum.”

The Mustangs started the game with four straight singles andscored four runs in the first inning. They added two more runs inthe second on a two-run home run by second baseman FernandoGoldman, giving them a 6-0 lead.

Meanwhile, Blakeney continued his postseason excellence. Thesenior righthander held Brookhaven without a hit for four-plusinnings. Scotty Smith singled to right to start the fifth forBrookhaven.

After John Randall Moore relieved him for 1/3 of an inning tostart the sixth, Blakeney returned to finish up. He ended the gameallowing one hit and striking out five, as he improved to 13-4.There were no fly ball outs in the game for Brookhaven.

“Jonathan pitched well. He’s done that for us all year, but he’sreally picked up since the playoffs started,” Clark said. “He’s aground ball machine. You can always tell when Jonathan’s on whenthey hit a couple of ground balls to second base in the firstinning. He’s been clutch for us all through the playoffs.”

Blakeney is now 13-4, while Brookhaven starter Brooks Hall fallsto 9-2.

West Jones improves to 24-8, matching the school record forvictories in a season, which was set by the 1986 South Statechampions. Brookhaven is now 27-7.

Panther coach Randy Spring tipped his cap to the Mustangs. “Westcame out ready to play and we kind of slopped around a little bit,”he said. “We didn’t hit a couple of spots pitching and to theircredit, when we hung a pitch, they hit it hard. They took advantageof a couple of breaks and that’s what a good baseball team willdo.

“We felt the key to beating Blakeney was to keep it close and ifthey opened the door later, we would have a chance to do something.But we got behind big so early it made it tough and Blakeney keptpumping strikes in there.”

Britt Barefoot led off the game with an infield hit for theMustangs. A throwing error allowed courtesy runner Ray RayPickering to advance all the way to third base. He scored on a wildpitch to make it 1-0.

Trey Sutton then singled to left and Goldman singled to right,sending Sutton to third. After Goldman stole second, Moore camethrough with a two-run single to center to make it 3-0. BrettLawson and Brett Hyatt reached on fielder’s choice ground balls.Adam Saul’s ground out plated Moore to make it 4-0.

In the second, Sutton reached on an infield hit. Goldman thensmashed a line drive home run over the left field wall to make it6-0.

“Fernando is kind of a sparkplug for us,” Clark said. “He playshard and gives all he’s got all the time. He can hit with a littlepower and can run well. We kind of feed off him sometimes.”

Goldman also made a sparkling, diving catch in shallow rightfield to rob Grant McDonnieal of a hit to end the fourthinning.

Darius Perkins replaced Hall after Goldman’s home run and keptthe Mustangs at bay until the fifth.

With one out Moore singled to center and stole second. Lawsonthen reached on an error. Both Moore and Lawson eventually scoredon wild pitches to make it 8-0.

The Panthers averted the shutout in the sixth. Perkins led offwith a walk. After Moore fanned Xavier Qualls, Hall came up anddrilled a two-run home run to left.

After a walk to catcher Adam Ogden, Blakeney returned to themound and got a Sutton to Goldman to Saul double play ground ballto end the inning.

“The thing we did not need was for the game to go only fiveinnings,” Spring said. “We needed to make those guys throw as manypitches as possible and, hopefully, that will affect them onMonday. There will be pressure on both teams Monday, but we willhave homefield advantage and they will have momentum on theirside.”

The winner of the West Jones vs. Brookhaven game will meet thewinner of the North State 4A series between Ridgeland and Pontotocfor the Overall State 4A championship, beginning later this week.Ridgeland beat Pontotoc, 7-0, Saturday to even that series at1-1,