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Story by Robert Wilson
Photos by Robert Smith
PELAHATCHIE – Simpson Academy hasn’t won a MAIS state baseball championship since the Cougars captured three consecutive Class AA state titles from 2004-2006.
Second-year Simpson coach Kelly Greer has never won a state championship in his 18 years as a head coach.
If Simpson continues to play like it did Thursday night, Simpson and Greer could finish as state champions this season.
Simpson ripped 16 hits – including seven doubles and one home run – scored 13 runs in the first two innings and defeated East Rankin 16-2 in five innings the second MAIS Class 5A conference game in a three-game series this week at East Rankin.
Simpson improved to 20-6 overall and 8-0 in league play and won its 13th consecutive game. Simpson defeated East Rankin 5-2 in the first game Monday. East Rankin dropped to 17-6 and 5-3. The two teams meet in the third game Friday at 6 p.m. at Simpson.
Simpson unleashed its offensive early with six runs on six hits, a two-run home run by junior first baseman Crosby Mullins – his father Winston coached Simpson to its last state title in 2006 and is now an assistant coach – and run scoring doubles by senior second baseman and Copiah-Lincoln Community College signee Bentley Berry and freshman right fielder Ben Kennedy. Simpson scored five runs before East Rankin could get its second out.
The Cougars added seven more in the second, junior Aubren Kennedy had the biggest hit, a three-run double.
Freshman shortstop Barrett McKenney and Ben Kennedy had three hits each for Simpson. Berry – the only senior starter – Mullins, Aubren Kennedy and sophomore designated hitter Colin Jenkins had two hits each. Jenkins was the winning pitcher in the first game.
Junior right-hander Carter Cockrell was the winning pitcher Thursday, and only allowed four hits and one run and had six strikeouts in four innings.
Simpson lost two games each to Class 6A Jackson Academy and Presbyterian Christian and one game each to Class 5A Brookhaven and Class 4A Wayne Academy.
Simpson’s biggest roadblocks to winning the state title this year are Starkville Academy and Magnolia Heights, which have both defeated MAIS four-time defending Class 6A state champion and nationally ranked Jackson Prep this season.
“We’ve spent a lot of time the past two days working on staying on top of the ball and using the right side little bit more than we have been,” Greer said. “Looks like they bought into it and had a good night. It’s the first time this year we had strung together some extra base hits like that.”
Mullins is hitting .500 with 31 RBIs, Cockrell .447 with 24 RBIs, McKenney .390 with 18 RBIs and junior catcher Matt Adcock .386 with 31 RBIs this season. Cockrell has a 4-1 pitching record.
Greer – a Mendenhall High, Co-Lin CC and Southern Miss graduate – has been close to winning state title when he was an assistant at Clinton under Sam Temple and lost to Hattiesburg for the state championship. He has been a head coach at Florence (six years), Mendenhall (four), Magee (three), Clinton (two) and Mount Olive (one) as well as four at Simpson.
Fourth-year East Rankin coach Steve Renfrow has guided his Patriots to tying the school record for wins this season. Renfrow, like Greer, is a veteran head coach. Renfrow won a state championship as a pitcher at Wingfield High in 1979 and as a coach at Jackson Academy in 1992 and at Indianola Academy in 2001 and was state runner-up at Indianola in 2002. The Belhaven graduate is in his 20th season as head coach, Indianola (seven), JA (five), Oak Hill Academy (two) and Gulfport High (two) as well as four at East Rankin.
Renfrow knows his team is much better than it played Thursday night.
“Simpson hit the ball and they did what they had to do to take us out of the game. It was frustrating,” Renfrow said. “Tomorrow is a new day, and we will how we respond. We are much better than we played tonight. Baseball is a humbling game and it humbled us tonight.”
Junior right fielder Dylan Wesson had a triple and scored the only two runs and junior second baseman Cole Moudy had two singles and one RBI. Wesson transferred from Brandon High in late March and has been a great addition. He is hitting .455 with a double and a triple, three runs and two RBIs in five games. Wesson is the son of Barry Wesson, who was an All-State player and Clarion-Ledger Metro Player of the Year in 1995 at Brandon High, was drafted out of high school by the Houston Astros and made it to major leagues in 2002 and 2003 with the Astros.