By Robert Wilson
Thanks to a run-scoring double by Luke Lycette, Northwest Rankin is going to the Class 6A state championship baseball series.
Lycette, a senior third baseman and Jones County Community College signee, hit a single to score Sam Whatley with no outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Northwest Rankin a 13-12 victory over Oak Grove in Game 3 of the best of three series in the 6A semifinals Thursday night at Northwest Rankin in Brandon.
Northwest Rankin, 27-7, meets No. 1 nationally ranked Madison Central, 32-2, next week in the best of three series for the 6A state title at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Northwest Rankin last won a state title in 2005. Madison Central defeated Northwest Rankin in both meetings this season, 20-2 on March 9 at Northwest Rankin and 9-0 on March 22 at Madison. Oak Grove finished 24-8.
Oak Grove scored eight runs in the top of the sixth inning to take a 12-11 lead, G.W. Pigott hit a two-run single to push Oak Grove ahead.
But Northwest Rankin’s Christian Cameron and Whatley hit back-to-back singles then a balk scored Cameron for a 12-12 tie with no outs before Lycette’s winning hit in the bottom of the seventh.
“I knew the whole inning that it was going to come down to me, so I started getting ready and rehearsing it in my brain,” Lycette said. “I got ahead quick in the count 2-0 and they changed pitchers. I took this time to breathe and get focused. When I stepped back in, I just really looked for the fastball and took advantage of it. I thought I got enough to get it out, but I’ll take it. No words for the feeling.”
Cameron hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the second inning to give Northwest Rankin a 3-0 lead. Oak Grove rallied to score four runs in the top of the third. Jack Sikes hit a two-run single to give Oak Grove the 4-3 lead. Brady Thomas hit a two-run homer and Whatley added a two-run single in the bottom of the third for a 7-4 Northwest Rankin lead.
Northwest Rankin added four more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning for an 11-4 lead, the big hits Blake Summerlin’s RBI single and Brice Ainsworth’s RBI double.
Oak Grove scored its seven of its eight runs in the top of the sixth with two outs, including a three RBI double by Zach Little.
“I’m so proud of my guys for competing the way they did. They have tons of fight in them,” first-year Northwest Rankin coach K.K. Aldridge said. “I thought we got some big hits early on from Christian Cameron, Sam Whatley, and Brady Thomas. Cameron gave us an early lead which was big. Oak Grove responded and we answered right back.
“Powell Ingram did a good job on the mound for us. Oak Grove put up all their runs with two outs. In both their big innings, we just couldn’t find a way to get off the field. You have to give their guys a ton of credit. They battled back and had us on the ropes.
“In the last inning, our guys did what we’ve talked about a good bit this year. Good teams find a way to win. We had two big hits in the bottom of the seventh, and Luke Lycette delivered the walk-off double to win it. Very happy for one of our senior leaders to have a moment like that.”