By Robert Wilson
No. 1 nationally ranked Madison Central held off a Tupelo rally in the bottom of the seventh inning for a 10-9 victory Tuesday night to sweep the best-of-three series in the MHSAA Class 6A semifinals at Tupelo.
Madison Central, 32-2, meets the Northwest Rankin-Oak Grove winner next week for the 6A state title at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Northwest Rankin defeated Oak Grove 4-0 Tuesday night in Game 1 at Northwest Rankin in Brandon. Game 2 is scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Oak Grove in Hattiesburg. Tupelo finished 27-10. Madison Central last won a state title in 2016.
After Madison Central scored one run in the top of the seventh for a 10-6 lead, Tupelo scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to close the gap to 10-9 with no outs, then Madison Central senior shortstop and Southern Miss signee Creek Robertson made two outstanding defensive plays and Madison Central junior right-hander Austin Tommasini got a fly out to center field for the final out.
“Creek made two highlight reel plays before the fly out to end the game,” said Madison Central coach Patrick Robey, who led the Jaguars to their last state title in 2016. “(Madison Central starting pitcher) Ranard (Grace) was good early on and we took advantage of some Tupelo walks and some well hit balls of our own. Ranard ran into some trouble in the fifth. Maybe the high temperatures got to him. Tommasini appeared a little tight, but we were able to weather the storm and hang on. That 10th run proved to be huge. You don’t get to this point by laying down when you get behind early as Tupelo did. They battled hard. Hats off to them. They are a well-coached team.”
Grace, a senior left-hander and Alabama-Birmingham signee, improved to 9-0 with the pitching victory.
Madison Central scored two runs in the first inning and five runs in the second to jump out to a 7-1 lead. The Jaguars had two hits, three walks, one hit by pitch and reached on an error in the second for their five runs in the second inning. Tupelo scored five runs in the fifth to close the gap before its rally in the bottom of the seventh.