By Robert Wilson
KK Aldridge led Northwest Rankin to a 27-9 record and a MSHAA Class 6A state championship appearance for the first time since 2005 in his first year as head coach and was named the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Coach of the Year.
Aldridge’s sophomore season as the Cougar head coach is on even a better pace.
Northwest Rankin won its sixth straight game and defeated Rankin County rival Brandon 10-2 Saturday afternoon in a Class 6A non-region game at Northwest Rankin in Flowood.
Northwest Rankin improved to 15-2. Brandon dropped to 14-5.
Northwest Rankin senior right-hander/shortstop and Southern Miss signee Nick Monistere was the star Saturday. Monistere, a member of the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team, had two doubles and a triple, threw a two-hitter, struck out nine and didn’t allow an earned run in 5 2/3 innings to improve his record to 5-1. Also, senior third baseman Brice Ainsworth had three hits, and senior second baseman Evan Rogers and senior catcher Brady Thomas had two hits each. Thomas had five runs batted in.
“Offensively, we made some good adjustments at the plate and were able to barrel some balls up throughout the game,” Aldridge said. “Defensively, we were a little sloppy (five errors), which is uncharacteristic for us. We will need to clean that up moving forward. We did what good teams do though and that is respond when the other team scores. Each time, they scored a run, we answered back with runs of our own in the bottom half. I’m proud of all our guys and the way they competed. They are a fun group to coach. They love to play the game. We have played some good baseball and will look to continue that this week.”
Northwest Rankin defeated defending 6A state champion Madison Central 6-2 Feb. 18 in a rematch of last year’s state championship series earlier this year at Northwest Rankin. The Cougars are 2-0 in Class 6A, Region 6 play with two wins over Terry last week. Northwest Rankin plays at Pearl at 7 p.m. Tuesday in region game, at 6A Germantown in a non-region game Thursday and plays host to Pearl Friday in a region game at Northwest Rankin.
Aldridge, 41, was promoted from assistant to replace longtime Northwest Rankin coach Jeff McClaskey, who coached Aldridge at Northwest Rankin in the late 1990s. McClaskey won 801 games in his 31 seasons at Northwest Rankin and was named the ABCA National High School Baseball Coach of the Year when he won a state title and finished ranked No. 6 in the nation in 2005. He also had three state runner-up finishes in his career.