By Robert Wilson
Photos by Robert Smith
Magnolia Heights School is ranked No. 10 in the country in the national high school poll by Collegiate Baseball.
Simpson Academy found out why Tuesday night.
Four-time defending MAIS Class 5A state champion Magnolia Heights won its 34th consecutive game and remained undefeated in Mississippi with a 15-5 victory over Simpson Tuesday night in Game 1`of the best-of-three series in the 5A semifinals at Simpson in Mendenhall.
Magnolia Heights improved to 37-3 and also won its 41st straight game against MAIS teams, dating back to a 9-8 loss to Starkville Academy in the regular season last year. Magnolia Heights lost to three Texas Class 6A public schools early in the season. The Chiefs have dominated MAIS Class 5A, winning 33, 30 and 30 games in the last state title seasons and haven’t lost a playoff game since 2019. Magnolia Heights’ win over Simpson was its 21st consecutive playoff victory.
Simpson dropped to 34-3 and broke a 13-game winning streak. The Cougars are trying to win their first state baseball championship since a three-peat in 2004-2006.
The two teams play Game 2 Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Magnolia Heights in Senatobia. Game 3, if necessary, is scheduled for Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Simpson.
Magnolia Heights got off to a 10-0 start in the first two innings, and its star – senior shortstop Cooper Pratt – led the way with a three-run home run in the second inning. Pratt, an Ole Miss signee, is rated the No. 43 player in the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft and the 22nd highest high school pick by mlb.com.
Magnolia Heights is loaded with future college players. Three more Division I players – two signees and one commitment – are in the lineup. Senior centerfielder-pitcher Keondre Fields signed with Missouri, senior outfielder Ethan Melton signed with South Alabama and freshman pitcher Cole Prosek has committed to Ole Miss. Five more have signed or committed with junior colleges.
The talent showed Tuesday. In addition to Pratt’s three-run blast, Magnolia Heights banged out 14 more hits, including three more home runs, one each by Melton, senior second baseman and Northwest Mississippi Community College signee Jackson Jenkins and senior first baseman John Ellis Price.
Melton and senior left fielder and Meridian CC signee Will McClure had three hits each. Jenkins, Cole Prosek and senior third baseman and Gulf Coast, Fla., CC signee Drew Prosek had two hits each. Price scored three runs. Pratt had four RBIs.
Cole Prosek pitched the first four innings for the win. He improved to 8-1.
“We had a long trip, almost three and a half hours, we ate and hit in the Jackson area to break it up,” said Magnolia Heights coach Chris McMinn, a South Panola High, Northwest Mississippi CC, and Delta State alumnus who won his 500th game this season, his 18th in Senatobia. “Our senior leadership takes over this time of year and they did tonight. We got off to a quick start. We are fortunate to have good hitters one through nine in our lineup and allows us to score a lot of runs. I was worried about this week because we haven’t played a lot of seven inning games and Simpson is a tough team. Our seven seniors understand the importance of this time of the year and help get our team ready to play.”
Sophomore third baseman Ben Kennedy had two hits and two RBIs for Simpson, which only had five hits.
“It was a tough night, all the way around,” said third-year Simpson coach Kelly Greer who is trying to win his first state title in his 19 years as a coach (Florence for six years, Mendenhall four, Magee and Simpson three each, Clinton two and Mount Olive one). “We just didn’t get ahead in the count enough and walked too many early. The second inning got away from us and we were trying to dig out of the hole the rest of the game. They swing it and pitch it too good to put runners on base like we did tonight. I thought my kids played hard and gave effort all night, we just couldn’t get over the hump after we got behind. We will regroup tomorrow and get ready for Wednesday and try to force Game 3. One thing I know is my kids will be ready Wednesday and will play hard.”