Photo by Bobby McDuffie

By Robert Wilson
Photos by Brad Bridges

       East Union junior right-hander Landon Harmon is considered a Division I recruit. He has committed to Mississippi State and throws in the mid-90s and dominated St. Andrew’s in Game 1 Tuesday of the MHSAA Class 2A state championship series.

       But St. Andrew’s has an effective pitcher of its own – Boyd McCullough – and the Saints senior right-hander showed East Union and the estimated 1,200 at Trustmark Park in Pearl he could get outs, too.

       McCullough threw his second complete game shutout in the 2A state playoffs and led St. Andrew’s to a 5-0 victory in Game 2 to even the best of three series and break two-time defending state champion East Union’s 27-game, three-year playoff game winning streak. 

       St. Andrew’s, trying to win its first state title since 2018 and sixth in school history, improved to 31-7. East Union, which has played in seven of the last eight state championship series (not counting covid year), dropped to 28-6. The Urchins hadn’t lost a playoff game since losing two straight to Taylorsville in the 2021 state championship series.

       The deciding Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. at Trustmark Park in Pearl.

       McCullough, throwing a fastball in the low-80s and a variety of sliders, changeups, and curveballs, kept the East Union batters off balance. McCullough allowed seven hits without a walk and didn’t strikeout a batter (East Union has yet to strike out in the series). He allowed a single in the first, a single in the third, two singles in the fourth, a single in the sixth and a single and a double in the seventh. Harmon – the Class 2A Player of the Year who came into the series with a .416 batting average – came up to bat with runners on second and third with two outs in the seventh inning, but grounded out to St. Andrew’s sophomore shortstop Justin Word, who threw to junior first baseman Stone Myrick for the last out of the game.

The last time East Union had not scored against the 2A team was when Taylorsville won 8-0 in the final game of the 2021 state championship series.

“I feel like the reason I was so effective today was my ability to locate and fill up the zone and let my defense play for me,” said McCullough, who also pitched a complete game shutout in a 6-0 win over Clarkdale in Game 3 in the 2A state semifinal series two weeks ago. “We have one of the best defenses in the state in my mind with a lot of young talent. Coming back out after losing the first game is hard especially after being shutout, but our resiliency and the will to win got us through. It feels good to see my hard work paying off, especially at this stage, but I give all the thanks to God.”

St. Andrew’s scored four runs in the second inning when senior left fielder and Meridian Community College signee Walker Van Meter walked, senior third baseman Friend Walker reached on a sacrifice bunt, sophomore second baseman John William Walker had a bunt single, senior catcher Blake Bell had a two-run single, senior right fielder Callan Baldwin walked, freshman designated hitter Cash Myrick hit an RBI single and senior center fielder and Hinds CC signee Rolen Fanning – son of St. Andrew’s head coach Mark Fanning – hit a sacrifice fly. 

Van Meter hit a sacrifice fly to score Fanning to push the lead to 5-0 in the fourth inning.

Coach Fanning is in his fifth state baseball championship series in his 27th season at the Ridgeland school. In addition to winning in 2018, he was runner-up in 2001, 2007 and 2009. 

       “Boyd stepped up again for us today,” Fanning said. “He has been really a hot pitcher for us lately. Boyd threw a lot of strikes and once again did not walk a batter. His quick tempo keeps the defense ready to make plays for him. It was so important for us to jump out to a lead in this elimination game and we were able to get those four runs in the second inning.”