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Photos by Chris Todd
Story by Robert Wilson

Madison-Ridgeland Academy defeated Jackson Academy 7-3 Wednesday night to sweep the best-of-three, MAIS Class 6A semifinal series.

The win puts No. 2 seed MRA back in a familiar place, in the state championship series against No. 1 seed and four-time defending state champion Jackson Prep, ranked No. 19 nationally by Perfect Game.

MRA hasn’t had good success in this setting against Prep, losing last season in two games, losing in 2019 in three games and losing in 2018 in two games. The teams didn’t play in state tournament in 2020 due to covid. MRA last won a state championship in 2016 when it defeated Prep in two games. In fact, MRA also lost to Prep in the state championship series in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

MRA hopes this season is different. With Wednesday’s win over JA, MRA comes into the Prep series with a 35-4 record and a lot of momentum, winning 15 of 16 games.

Said MRA coach Allen Pavatte: “I’m excited about next week, a chance to play and win a state championship. I look forward to playing.”

“Prep has a great team, both offensively and defensively, we know we are going to have to execute to perfection,” MRA senior outfielder and Northwest Mississippi Community College signee Peyton Martin said. “As long as we keep doing what we are doing, it will be an exciting series.”

There has been a lot of attention given to JA outfielder and Mississippi State football and baseball signee Dakota Jordan, rated as the 30th best high school player in the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft, and Prep freshman pitcher-shortstop Konnor Griffin, the No. 1 rated player in his class by Perfect Game, but Martin is having one of the best seasons of any hitter in Mississippi.

He scored one run Wednesday and is tied for first in Mississippi and tied for 10th in the nation with 54 runs scored, according to MaxPreps. Martin had two hits and three runs batted in Wednesday, bumping his batting average to a team-high .452 and 41 RBIs. He also has 14 doubles, 1 triple and 4 home runs.

Guys like Martin are the reason MRA is in the state championship series. Despite starting four sophomores for much of the season (designated hitter Nicholas Arnold, first baseman Corey Watkins, second baseman Jack Dye and third baseman John Witt Snopek), MRA has had one of the best seasons in school history. Now, the Patriots are ready to cap it off with a win over Prep.

MRA got to the championship series with another sophomore, pitcher Drew Lambert, getting the win Wednesday. He allowed four hits and no runs in six innings. Lambert improved to 8-0 and has a 2.36 earned run average this season.

“I thought Drew pitched well last night,” Pavatte said. “He did what we needed him to do to get us into a position to win. It was one of his better outings this year. Drew gave us a great chance to win. I thought our defense played well last night. I was proud of our guys with our two out hits to pull away in the later innings.”

Senior Connor Stewart, who had three hits and four RBIs in Tuesday’s 16-5 win over JA, broke a scoreless tie with a solo home run in the top of the fourth inning. MRA scored four more runs in the fifth and two runs in the sixth. JA scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh.

JA, which was the only team to defeat Prep and MRA during the regular season, finished 21-14.

“I thought we hit the ball pretty good most of the night, but we couldn’t get the timely hit,” JA coach Parker Harris said. “Their pitcher (Lambert) did a great job competing in the strike zone. I’m proud of our players for the way they came out each day and competed until the final out.”

Jordan hit a double in his last at bat of his high school career, capping the best individual season in school history and one of the best in Mississippi history. He set school records for batting average (.524), on-base percentage (.635), slugging percentage (1.180), RBIs (57) and home runs (16) and tied the school record with hits (55 with Edwin Smith in 2018). Jordan was four short of tying the MAIS record of 20 home runs, set by Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Hunter Renfroe of Copiah Academy in 2010. Jordan is tied for third in the nation in home runs, according to MaxPreps.

“Dakota is a special player who has a bright future in front of him,” Harris said. “Not only is Dakota a great player, but he is an outstanding teammate.”