PEARL — Just a few miles away from the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, the East Central baseball team made school history Saturday night.
For the first time ever, the Hornets captured back-to-back state championships after East Central knocked off Saltillo 11-0 in five innings in the third game of the Class 5A state championship series here at Trustmark Park. The title is the fourth in the history of the program, with the other gold gloves coming in 1981, 2008 and last season in 2022.
“It feels really, really good, what a great win” said veteran Hornet head coach Bo Long, who also celebrated a birthday Saturday as well. “These kids were under a lot of pressure all season long, because basically nothing less than another state championship was gonna be a disappointment and that’s a lot of pressure to put on teenage kids. But they did it. What a tremendous effort.-”
Despite having a series stretched to a third and deciding game for the third consecutive round, East Central wasted no time in taking quick command of the biggest contest of the season.
The Hornets scored six runs in the top of the first frame thanks to five hits and a trio of Saltillo errors to make a statement early in the contest. The Hornets added three more runs in the second stanza to take a quick 9-0 advantage.
In the opening inning, the Hornets sent 12 batters to the plate. Logan Terry started things off with a run-scoring double to make it 1-0, and Nate Trochessett followed that with a two-run single to make it 3-0. Anthony Tanner’s RBI-single made it 4-0, and Tanner later scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-0. T.J. Dunsford lined an RBI-single to left that plated a run making it 6-0.
In the second stanza, Payton McLean drove in a run for ECHS with a sacrifice fly, then Tanner scored on yet another wild pitch and Andrew Marble scored on a passed ball to make it 9-0.
The Hornets kept the line moving in the third frame, as Marble registered a two-run double for ECHS to make it 11-0.
Saltillo didn’t manage a hit off of Hornet starting pitcher Brayson Owenby until the bottom of the fourth inning, and it would be the only one he allowed in a complete game shutout. Owenby picked up the win. Terry was named the Most Valuable Player of the series. Trochessett, Marble and Tanner each had two hits apiece in the win, and both Trochessett and Tanner Marble drove in two runs apiece.
This championship match-up was a battle between the past two Class 5A state champions. The Hornets won game one 4-1 on Tuesday night before the Tigers took game two Friday night 2-1. Saltillo won the state championship in 2021.
East Central faced this same situation 14 years ago, in 2009, when after winning the state title in that 2008 season the Hornets returned to the championship round the next season but fell to West Lauderdale in three games.
East Central made sure that didn’t happen this time around, as the Hornets wrapped it up in maroon and white with a chorus of cow bells ringing in the air.