Photos by Hays Collins
Story by Robert Wilson
First-year Germantown High baseball coach Chris Peden’s goal is to bring a state championship to this program.
He took a big step in the right direction this week when his Mavericks won the regular season championship of Madison County when they swept county rival Madison Central in a three-game, MHSAA Class 6A, Region 3 opening series for both teams.
Germantown won Game 1 7-4 Tuesday at Madison Central, Game 2 7-6 Thursday at Germantown and Game 3 8-5 Saturday at Madison Central.
Germantown improved to 13-3 overall and 3-0 in regional play. Madison Central dropped to 6-12 and 0-3 in regional play.
“We are building our own tradition and hope to bring a championship to the northern part of Madison County,” said Peden, (photo below) who came to Germantown after six seasons as head coach at Ridgeland. “I’ve been a part of the MC program (Peden was an assistant for eight seasons and was a part of two state championships and two state runner-up finishes). I know the tradition they have and for us to sweep them in big for our kids.”
In Game 3, Germantown banged out 15 hits and had five players with two or more hits in the win. Senior third baseman and Southwest Mississippi Community College signee Cody Presley and senior right fielder and Pearl River CC signee JP Robertson – a member of the PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team – had three hits each with one double. Senior centerfielder and East Central CC signee Lawson Gardner, sophomore left fielder Jackson Estes and sophomore second baseman Amaya Esco had two hits each.
Junior right-hander and Tulane commitment Drew Harrison got the pitching win. Harrison allowed four hits and one earned run with two walks and four strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings to improve to 2-0 this season. Senior right-hander and Meridian CC signee Peyton Fowler allowed three hits and no earned runs with three walks and three strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings in relief.
Senior first baseman and Pearl River CC signee Ryan McGrillis and senior second baseman and Blue Mountain College signee Caleb Thompson had two hits each for Madison Central.
In Game 2, Germantown scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning for the come-from-behind victory. Gardner walked, Harrison singled with one out and Robertson had infield hit to score Gardner to cut the Madison Central lead to 6-5. Senior first baseman and Meridian CC signee Hampton Ross and Estes walked to bring another run to tie the game and Presley had the game-winning single to score Robertson.
Sophomore right-hander Rhett Murphy got the win in relief. He allowed three hits and no earned runs with one walk and six strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.
Harrison led Germantown with two hits, two runs scored and two RBIs. Gardner scored two runs and Ross had two RBIs.
Junior pitcher and designated hitter and Southern Miss commitment Chase Russell had two hits and McCrillis had a double and three RBIs for Madison Central.
In Game 1, Robertson got the pitching win to improve to 2-1 this season. He allowed three hits and three earned runs with six walks and six strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.
Junior shortstop and Pearl River CC commitment Jackson Hood scored two runs each and Estes had two RBIs for Germantown.
Senior shortstop and Hinds CC signee Thomas Nichols scored two runs for Madison Central.
“We are not offensive enough to out hit our inexperienced mistakes,” said Madison Central coach Patrick Robey, who led the Jaguars to the 6A state championship and a No. 1 national ranking two years ago. “It’s not that we make a ton of errors, it just feels like the ones we do make are in crucial pressure situations. We are like a football defense that can’t get off the field on third down. We are kind of giving up the third and nine long pass.”
Peden is a proven winner. The former Seminary High, Jones County Junior College and Southern Miss catcher had a 93-78 record and reached the MHSAA Class 5A semifinals once and the quarterfinals three times at Ridgeland. Peden was an assistant at Madison Central for eight seasons, helping the Jaguars to two state championships and two state runner-up finishes before going to Ridgeland. Germantown athletic director Gregg Perry hired Peden at Madison Central in 2007 and they won a state title together in 2009.
Peden has five returning starters from last year’s team, which finished 18-11 and reached the second round of the 6A playoffs. Robertson, Ross, Gardner, Hood and senior designated hitter-infielder and Holmes CC signee Andrew Dinkelacker are returning starters.
Peden also has some experience in the dugout. Brian Hardy, who Peden replaced, has decided to help Peden this season. He is also an assistant athletic director. Hardy was the only head baseball coach Germantown has ever had. He is an assistant at Madison Central and started the Germantown program 12 seasons ago. Hardy had a 220-91-2 record (a 70.7 winning percentage) with five division championships. He has had 21 all-state players, 49 college players and 80 all-division players at Germantown. Hardy was the division Coach of the Year six times and was an All-Star Game coach in 2015. He led the Mavericks to the third round of the playoffs four times during his time at Germantown.