PEARL — At the beginning of the 2008 prep baseball season in Mississippi, Jackson County had never in the fifty-plus years of sanctioned play by the MHSAA produced two state champions on the diamond in the same season.
Now, 15 years later, it’s happened three different times, including the past two seasons.
For the second consecutive season, Both Resurrection in Class 1A and East Central in Class 5A captured state titles, marking the first time in the history of either program that the schools captured consecutive state championships.
The Hornets of Hurley have been a part of that triumvirate of historic wins by Jackson County teams as they’ve been involved in that winning equation all three times.
In addition to slipping past Saltillo last week in three games to take the title, East Central rolled past Neshoba Central last season in a sweep to take the Class 5A title.
The run started when the Hornets (Class 4A) and Ocean Springs High (Class 5A) brought the state title hardware home to the most southeastern county in the state 15 years ago (2008).
Then, Resurrection became the fifth high school in Jackson County to win a state baseball championship last year when the Eagles beat Biggersville in two games to take their first-ever Class 1A crown.
That means that five of the eight MHSAA-sanctioned high schools in Jackson County have won state baseball championships in the past 55 years.
In that time span, RCS, Pascagoula, ECHS, OSHS and Vancleave have all carried the state championship trophy back home after wins in the Jackson area. When considering that Jackson County is home to just eight MHSAA schools, now over half have won state titles.
“I’ve always said that Jackson County has a rich history of baseball at all age levels but especially in high school baseball,” former Pascagoula and Resurrection head coach Johnny Olsen said recently. Olsen is one of the only head coaches to win state baseball championships at two different high schools in the state of Mississippi and the only one to do so with two different teams in Jackson County.
“There is some great baseball played all over the state of Mississippi, but I’d put the level of play in Jackson County over the years up with any other county in the state,” Olsen added. “And obviously, that high level of play is still in effect today as well.”
That run started with East Central’s first title in 1981 and continued with Pascagoula’s state title in 1983 (Olsen was an assistant coach on that team). Also included in the recent run are two more titles by the Panthers in 1996 under Olsen and 2012 under Richie Tillman.
Ocean Springs won the only state title to date for the Greyhounds in 2008, the same season ECHS was securing its second crown. Vancleave joined the elite company in the county in 2018 when the Bulldogs won the Class 4A crown.
Before East Central’s title in 1981 in what was then Class A over Hollandale Simmons, it had been 13 years since a Jackson County school captured a state crown when Pascagoula won back-to-back titles in 1967 and 1968.
It’s also been very much a family affair for East Central over the past 40 years in the Hornets’ flight to the state title. The 1981 crown came with Rocky Long at the helm of the Hornets. In 2008, Gary Long, who was a standout player on the 1981 team and Rocky’s first cousin, was the ECHS head coach. And the current Hornet head coach is Bo Long, who is Gary’s nephew, and he has guided the Hornets to back-to-back state crowns.