Photo By Robert Smith

Northwest Rankin junior right-hander Nick Monistere threw a three-hitter and the Cougars had several two out hits for a 4-0 victory over Oak Grove Tuesday night in Game 1 of the best-of-three series in the MHSAA Class 6A semifinals at Northwest Rankin in Brandon.

Northwest Rankin, 26-6, and Oak Grove, 23-7, are scheduled to play Game 2 Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Oak Grove in Hattiesburg. Game 3, if necessary, is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. at Northwest Rankin. The winner plays No. 1 nationally ranked Madison Central, 32-2, for the 6A state championship. Madison Central defeated Tupelo 10-9 Tuesday night in Tupelo to complete a sweep of its best-of-three semifinal series.

Monistere, who improved to 11-1, struck out seven in his complete game victory.

Junior outfielder Chris Tillman had a run-scoring fielder’s choice with two outs in the second to give Northwest Rankin a 1-0 lead. Junior catcher Brady Thomas had an RBI single with two outs in the third for a 2-0 lead and a two RBI single with two outs in the fifth for a 4-0 lead.

“I was very proud of the way our guys competed,” Northwest Rankin first-year coach K.K. Aldridge said. “After the long layoff, I knew it might take a few innings to adjust at the plate. We were able to get two big hits from Brady Thomas in some key situations. “On the mound, Nick Monistere did we have come to expect Nick to do. We needed him to give us a complete game and he delivered. “I feel good about how our team is playing but know we will be in for a battle tomorrow night. Oak Grove is a tough team that’s coached well. We will have to play well in order to win the game.”