Meilstrup delivers region baseball title for BHS baseball with walk-off single

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, April 20, 2022

It was all right there for Brookhaven High junior leadoff hitter Jake Meilstrup on Monday night. Batting with one out in the bottom of the seventh, Meilstrup’s team had the bases loaded in a 1-1 game with West Jones.

The Panthers needed one run to cross the plate to give them the win and the Region 5-5A regular season title.

Meilstrup took strike one looking and missed with a big swing for strike two. He took another cut on the third pitch he saw from West Jones junior pitcher Lawson Odom and just tipped it foul to keep the at-bat alive.

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The next pitch is one that Meilstrup will never forget as he perfectly placed his barrel over the plate and slashed a blooper of a single that landed just past the short stop into the shallows of left field.

His teammate Walker Moak scored from third base and the BHS defense exploded out to mob Meilstrup at first as the Panthers locked up their division title and a first-round bye in the MHSAA 5A playoffs with the 2-1 win.

It’s the first time since 2016 that a team other than West Jones has won Region 5-5A.

“I’ve never experienced anything like that,” said Meilstrup when describing his first ever walk-off hit. “I was just looking to get the ball into the big part of the field.”

The game was a pitcher’s duel through most of the night as Lawson, a verbal pledge to Southern Miss, and Brookhaven High senior Maney Miller went back and forth in limiting both offenses.

Lawson had given up just one hit in the first six innings before BHS used three hits to grab the win. He struck out eight, walked one and gave up one earned run on 97 pitches.

Miller, a Pearl River CC signee, threw 116 pitches in seven innings. He walked four, struck out 13 and gave up on unearned run on two hits.

“I had all three pitches working for me tonight,” said Miller. “We won our district when I was a freshman, but that was in a different region. We had some tough games against Florence and West Jones to get this one.”

The Panthers and Mustangs make up the division along with 5A newcomer Florence and Natchez High. BHS finished 2-1 on the year against both WJ and Florence and swept Natchez in three meetings.

It was Miller who pitched BHS to a win over West Jones when the teams first met on March 24, a 2-0 victory on Moyer Field for the Panthers.

The very next night the teams met up in Soso and the Mustangs defended their home field with a 10-0 win in which Odom threw a no-hitter.

The third matchup of the season against Florence was a must-win game for BHS when it became clear that West Jones would take 2-of-3 from the Rankin County based Eagles.

On April 8 at Florence, BHS broke open a close game with three runs in the top of the seventh to win 5-1 and set up the showdown on Monday at Moyer.

Meilstrup was stellar on the mound in that win at Florence as he pitched a complete game and gave up one unearned run on four hits while striking out eight.

Lincoln County received several soaking rains over the long Easter weekend, but BHS coach Matt White knew early on Monday that his field would be ready to play.

“The field drained really well and when the middle of the morning rolled around and we only had a few small puddles here and there, I knew we’d get to play ball tonight,” said White. “The sun came out and started shining and the wind really picked up and we had such a beautiful crowd here supporting us — what more could we have asked for?”

The home fans saw their Panthers get on the board in the bottom of the fifth when BHS started the frame out by having catcher Ben Adams gain first base after getting hit by a pitch.

Freshman Brayden Wilson replaced Adams as a courtesy runner. Senior Addison Brady reached on an error by West Jones to move Wilson up to second base.

An error on the next play, a ball put into play off the bat of Meilstrup, led to Wilson scoring from second and giving BHS a 1-0 lead.

West Jones quickly tied the game in the following half inning as the leadoff Mustang batter reached via an error and then scored on a single by Caleb Flynn.

BHS went 3-up and 3-down in the bottom of the sixth and the same thing happened to West Jones in the top of the seventh.

Adams popped out to start the bottom half of the seventh for BHS. Moak next came up as a pinch hitter and singled to center field on a 2-2 pitch.

The following batter, Bryson Porter, was hit by a pitch that moved Moak up to second.

Everyone in the ballpark knew that Brady, the next batter for BHS, would be laying down a bunt to move the runners up with only one out.

The result of Brady’s bunt couldn’t have been any better for Ole Brook. He struck the ball hard into the turf as he bunted it down towards third. There wasn’t a play at third base for West Jones and a slight hesitation by the third baseman in running in to field the ball was all Brady needed to beat out the throw to first base.

With the basses loaded, the BHS home dugout was jacked up and could feel the wave of momentum that was pushing their team towards a thrilling finish.

The camaraderie of this group is something mentioned by both White and his players as an area where the team has improved throughout the season.

“The dugout was really into it tonight and they’ve been like that for almost the entire year,” said Miller. “It gives you a lift when you can see how hard those guys are rooting for you.”

Last year the program added a player’s lounge to its locker room facility. White says that playing ping-pong and foosball has had a bigger impact on baseball than one would think.

“We could start to see it some last year, but this year it’s been very evident that the boys enjoy being together,” said White. “They’ll stay up here and compete again each other in ping pong for as long as we’ll let them after practice.”

There’s be time for post-practice ping pong over the next week the Panthers (13-5) have a first-round bye.

West Jones will play Picayune High in the first round that begins later this week while Brookhaven High awaits the winner between Vancleave and Hattiesburg High in the second round that is scheduled to begin on April 29.