By Robert Wilson
Jackson Prep is ranked No. 21 in the nation by Perfect Game. And when senior right-hander and Mississippi State signee Will Gibbs is on the mound, the Patriots might be even better than that.
Hartfield Academy found that out Monday night in the first game of its MAIS Class 6A Conference, three game series this week at Hartfield in Flowood.
Gibbs allowed only three hits and no runs with eight strikeouts and only one walk in six innings and junior center fielder and MSU commitment Rives Reynolds hit a two-run home run and a double to lead four-time defending MAIS state champion Prep to a 6-0 victory.
Prep improved to 18-4 overall and 3-1 in conference play and bounced from a 5-3 loss to MRA in the third game of last week’s opening conference series. Hartfield dropped to 15-4 and 3-1 after sweeping Presbyterian Christian School last week. Prep and Hartfield play a doubleheader Friday at Prep in Flowood.
Hartfield leadoff hitter and senior shortstop Will Purvis greeted Gibbs with a double in bottom of the first inning and senior third baseman Bran Boyd sacrificed Purvis to third. Senior first baseman and MSU signee Lincoln Sheffield hit a foul ball down the third base line and Prep senior left fielder and Louisiana-Monroe Trey Bridges reached over the fence to catch the ball, then fired a strike to senior catcher and Louisiana Tech signee Eli Berch to tag Purvis to complete double play for the third out.
Said Gibbs: “Trey made an incredible play. It was big. I felt like we were able to quickly take away the momentum they had and our team dominated after the first inning.”
Gibbs – a member of the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team – did for sure. He didn’t allow a hit for the next four innings. Hartfield finally got another hit off Gibbs in the sixth with back-to-back singles by right fielder Brady Griffin and junior second baseman Garrett Jackson – the No. eight and nine hitters in the lineup – but Gibbs struck out Purvis and Boyd to end the inning.
Junior left hander Ford McDaniel replaced Gibbs in the seventh struck out senior first baseman and MSU signee Lincoln Sheffield and sophomore pitcher Reid Gaston – who came in with the highest two batting averages on the team at .410 and .456 respectively. Then Gibbs got junior center fielder Ben Stringer to foul out to Berch to end the game. McDaniel came in with a 1.11 earned run average in 10 appearances.
Gibbs came into Monday with a 3-1 record, an 0.85 ERA and 65 strikeouts and only 12 walks in 33 innings. With Gibbs on the hill, Prep is extremely tough to beat.
“Will battled and forced them to swing the bat,” Prep coach Brent Heavener said. “He did a good job pitching. His slider was really good and they had trouble picking it up. We got them to chase it a little bit. (Left fielder) Trey (Bridges) may have had the play of the game, reaching over to catch the ball, and throwing out the runner at the plate. That kick started us and then Rives’ home run got us in sync.”
“My main focus tonight was to just attack the strike zone,” Gibbs said. “I didn’t let the first hit rattle me and just focused on throwing quality pitches and letting my defense work. After I settled in, I was able to throw both my fastball and slider whenever I wanted and kept my pitch count low. Overall, our team did a great job offensively and defensively and I’m glad we could get another big conference win.”
Prep had seven hits, led by Rives and junior designated hitter and Meridian Community College commitment Matthew Cochran with two each. Cochran has had eight hits in the last three games and improved his average to .414 after Monday’s game.