By Robert Wilson
Five-time defending MAIS Class 6A state baseball champion Jackson Prep – ranked No. 19 in the country by Perfect Game – was involved in a 10-run rule game Wednesday night. And the Patriots weren’t on the winning end.
No. 4 seed Presbyterian Christian School – which came into Wednesday with a 14-19 overall record – shocked No. 1 seed Prep 12-2 in five innings to even the best of three series in the 6A state semifinals at PCS in Hattiesburg.
PCS, which lost to Prep 10-2 Tuesday in Game 1, finished with a 5-10 league record in the regular season, including losses of 14-0, 11-1 and 8-6 to Prep. Prep dropped to 28-4 overall and broke a 19-game winning streak. The Patriots finished 15-0 in league play this season. Prep hadn’t lost to a MAIS team since a 12-11 decision to Madison-Ridgeland Academy in Game 2 of last year’s 6A state championship series. Prep hadn’t lost by as many runs since losing 15-5 to four-time MAIS state champion Magnolia Heights School last season.
The two teams are scheduled to play Game 3 Thursday at 7 p.m. at Prep. The winner meets No. 2 seed MRA next week in the 6A state championship series.
Prep was playing Wednesday without its star player – junior pitcher-shortstop Konnor Griffin, rated the No. 1 player in the country in the Class of 2024 – who was held out by Prep coach Brent Heavener as a precautionary measure due to a strain to his non-throwing shoulder.
PCS scored eight runs in the first inning and Prep never recovered. Junior second baseman Turner Vance and senior shortstop Brennan Johnson had two hits each. Johnson had four runs batted in and scored two runs. Vance had two RBIs. Freshman centerfielder and leadoff hitter Jet Henderson had two runs scored and two RBIs. Junior right fielder Jacob Baugh, junior third baseman Drew Diamond and junior left fielder Reeves Williamson scored two runs each. Senior catcher Reagan Grace had two RBIs.
“I’m just really proud of our guys,” said PCS coach Jarrett Hoffpauir, who played at Southern Miss from 2002-2004 and is in his fifth season as head coach at PCS. “Our backs were against the wall against one of the best teams in the country and our guys found a way to win. You never feel comfortable against a team like Prep until the last out is made.”
PCS freshman right-hander Bankston Walters allowed only three hits in a complete game victory against the talented Prep lineup, which averages 10 runs per game and has .384 team batting average. He had 79 pitches, 50 for strikes. Walters improved to 6-5 with two saves.
“Bankston has been our workhorse all year,” Hoffpauir said. “He dialed it in tonight and I was really proud of him. He filled the zone up all night. When he does that, he’s tough to beat.”
Prep’s only hits were by senior centerfielder and Mississippi State signee Rives Reynolds (double), senior pitcher-first baseman and Hinds Community College signee Graham Busbea (double) and senior second baseman and Hinds CC signee Matthew Cochran (single). Prep, which has a .504 team on base percentage, had only six baserunners (three hits and three walks).
“We had a rough start to the game tonight and couldn’t get things turned around,” Prep coach Brent Heavener said. “They did a good job on the mound and at the plate and came out ready to play. We have to do a better job. We have to bounce back and be ready go to tomorrow.
“Konnor strained his non-throwing shoulder the last week of the season. And we are using the utmost caution to make sure we do not do anything to hurt him. With a player of his caliber, we were using extreme caution.”