By Robert Wilson

Northwest Rankin is still one game away from reaching the MHSAA Class 6A state championship series against No.1 nationally ranked Madison Central.

The Cougars lost to Oak Grove 5-3 Wednesday night at Oak Grove in Hattiesburg to even the 6A semifinal best of three series at one game each.

Northwest Rankin, 25-7, and Oak Grove, 24-6, are scheduled to meet in Game 3 Thursday at 7 p.m. at Northwest Rankin in Brandon. Northwest Rankin won Game 1 4-0 Tuesday night at Northwest Rankin. Northwest Rankin last won the state championship in 2005.

Jack Sikes hit a three-run double in the fourth inning to key a four-run inning for a 5-0 lead Oak Grove lead. Northwest Rankin junior shortstop Nick Monistere, who threw a three-hitter with seven strikeouts to win Game 1, hit a three-run home run to pull Northwest Rankin to 5-3 in the fifth inning.

Oak Grove senior pitcher and Pearl River Community College signee J.P. Lyon threw a four-hitter with nine strikeouts. Northwest Rankin senior right-hander and Jones County CC signee Blake Summerlin was the losing pitcher.