VANCLEAVE — It all comes down to this.
After an action-packed first inning, Vancleave hung on to beat West Jones 5-4 on Saturday night. That win ties the series at one apiece with a win-or-go-home game three on Monday in Soso.
West Jones slipped past the Bulldogs 4-3 at home on Tuesday night to open the series.
“These guys have always responded, anytime we get punched in the mouth, we seem to bounce back,” Vancleave head coach Justin Edwards said, “it wasn’t pretty in the first… [but] we grinded it out and found a way to win.”
Game two was originally slated for Friday night in Vancleave, but pushed back a day due to weather field conditions.
But that brief delay didn’t dampen either team’s enthusiasm in this best-of-three Class 5A South State semifinal series, as all of the scoring in Saturday’s game occurred in the first inning.
In the top of the first inning, West Jones jumped out to an early lead bringing in four runs on five hits. The big blow was a two-run single by Mustang senior Kelton Hosey.
The Bulldogs answered right back in the bottom of the first inning. With the bases loaded, junior Tyler West brought in the first two runs with a single. Sophomore Aidan Tapp then punched a ball through the infield that plated two more runs aided by a West Jones error tying the game at 4-4. Junior Tanner Willis knocked an RBI single to take the lead, 5-4.
After giving up four runs in the first, Vancleave’s pitcher, Tyler West, settled in, keeping West Jones from scoring any more runs for the remainder of the game.
He secured the game by striking out the potential winning run at the plate in the top of the seventh inning. West pitched all seven innings, striking out six batters while only giving up one walk and earned the win in the process allowing nine hits and striking out eight while walking just one.
“Unbelievable,” coach Edwards said of his Bulldog of a pitcher West’s performance, “Once he settles in, he’s going to throw pitches for strikes, and he’s going to compete. After a rough first, he dialed it back in, and kind of carried us the rest of the way.”
The Bulldogs managed just six hits, all singles, in the win.
Camden Clark collected a game-high three hits for West Jones in the losing effort.
Vancleave, now 24-12 overall, and West Jones, now 23-8 overall, will compete for a spot in the final four of Class 5A against defending Class 5A state champion East Central, after the Bulldogs’ fellow Region 8-5A foe dispatched Picayune 5-1 Saturday night in a game that also took place in Jackson County.