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Lawrence Co. whips West Jones in Game 3

MONTICELLO — The Lawrence County Cougars defeated the WestJones Mustangs 15-4 Saturday, in the deciding game of theirbest-of-three series, earning the Cougars a trip to the SouthMississippi 4A finals.

Lawrence County spotted the visiting Mustangs 3 runs in the topof the first, then roared back, using a combination of timelyhitting and some serious West Jones control problems, to gain a5-inning, 10-run rule, win.

Ultimately, it was first baseman Nick Jackson’s 2-run homer, amonumental blast that rolled to a rest near the Lawrence CountyHigh cafeteria, more than 600 feet from home plate, that drew thegame, and the series, to a close.

“Too bad Nick didn’t hit that one during our hit-a-thon,” saidsecond-year Lawrence County coach Cory Keyes. “That would’vefinanced a new dressing room, but we’ll sure take it when we gotit.

” I’m just very proud of the way our guys came back and played,after having such a tough (Friday) night over at West Jones. Ourguys showed a lot of character.”

With the win, Lawrence County improved to a best-ever 29-4. WestJones ended its season at 22-10. Lawrence County will face eithertop-ranked Petal or Pearl River Central in a best-of-three seriesthat begins next Saturday.

Saturday’s deciding game was made necessary by West Jones’ 13-6win over the Cougars in the second game of the series, Friday nightin Soso. LCHS won the first game, on the strength of Jake Russell’sshutout pitching, 3-0, on Thursday.

Saturday’s finale got off to a rough start for the Cougars. WestJones put up 3 runs in the top of the first, and it looked asthough Lawrence County’s outstanding season might be nearing anend.

In the bottom of the inning, however, the tables turneddramatically. Joseph Evans started things with the first of his 3hits. Pitcher Trent Hartzog followed with 1 of his 2 hits, aninfield single. Johnathan Stephens then hammered a 3-1 pitch farover the left-center-field fence, knotting the game at 3-3.

That was just the beginning of the Mustangs’ problems. After thenext 2 Cougar hitters were retired, 8 of the next 9 Lawrence Countybatters reached base either via a base on balls or hit batsman. Thelone exception was a 2-run single by Evans.

Fifteen Cougar batters went to the plate in the inning, and WestJones went through 3 pitchers.

Bruce Corley, who pitched a complete game in the Mustangs’ winon Friday, was the third pitcher. He finally got the Mustangs outof the inning.

West Jones ace Ian Sharp, who pitched well in a complete-gameloss against Russell on Thursday, and who threw 14 straight inningslast Saturday, helping West Jones to advance to this point, wasunavailable because of a severe blister on the middle finger of histhrowing hand.

“It was a crazy, ugly inning,” said long-time LCHS assistantCraig Davis, “but that was their problem. Our guys did a good jobof showing patience and discipline. Those two leadoff singles, andthe big homer un, which got back even after that tough start, werejust huge.”

After his tough first inning, Cougar pitcher Trent Hartzogsettled in, allowing just 1 run on 2 hits in the remainder of thegame. That run came on a fourth-inning solo homer by Mustangshortstop Chase Headrick. Headrick, who had just 1 homer on theseason, coming into the series, hit 3 bombs in West Jones’ Fridaynight win.

“Trent really didn’t have his best stuff today,” Davis said,”but he just competed and battled right through it. That (Ian)Sharp is a great hitter, and Trent struck him out twice with guysall over the bases. Obviously, we’re happy to see Headrick leavehere. We couldn’t do anything with him.”

Hartzog struck out 3 and allowed 4 hits in the 5-inning effort.In the fifth, Hartzog got help from first cousin Marty Ballard, theCougars’ center fielder, who robbed West Jones catcher Dirk Welchof what would have been a solo homer.

Lawrence County added 3 runs in the third, as Evans, Hartzog,and Stephens had consecutive hits. Mackenzie Woods reached on anerror and scored on a wild pitch in the fourth. In the fifth,Ballard walked and was on first base when Jackson launched hismonstrous blast, which hit atop the old LCHS gymnasium, and boundedoff the far side.

“We’re happy to still be playing,” said Coach Keyes. “Obviously,we’d love to win four more games, but we’ve got to take them one ata time. There’s nothing for us to do right now but put in a goodweek of practice and try to get better.”