FLOWOOD — It’ll come down to a Game 3.
Behind the pitching of Seth McCartney, Brandon held off Northwest Rankin 4-3 in a key Region 6-6A baseball game at Jeff McClaskey Stadium on Thursday night.
Both teams have three games left in Region 6-6A, with the final one being between the Cougars and Bulldogs at Brandon on Tuesday, April 20 that could determine the region winner and who gets the first round bye in the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs.
“I told the guys before the game this is as a close to a playoff game without it being a playoff game and both teams battled which you expect in a rivalry like this,” said Brandon coach Daniel Best. “We jumped on them early and our starter went deep in the game and they fought back and we just found a way to win.”
Brandon (17-6, 5-1 Region 6-6A) scored the first run in the top of the first inning on an RBI single by Jonah Katsaboulas.
The Bulldogs added on two more runs in the second inning to extend their lead to 3-0 on a fielder’s choice and an RBI single by Andrew Jones.
Wade Fulton scored on a wild pitch in the fourth inning to give Brandon a 4-0 lead.
“Their pitcher was struggling and we did a great job of getting deep in the counts,” Best said. “We preach to our kids all the time be aggressive on the bases and we did that tonight early on.”
Brandon starter McCartney (4-2) lasted five innings, scattering three hits and allowing one earned run while striking out 10. “He did a great job tonight filling up the zone and mixing in his slider and got out of some jams and kept us in the position we were in,” Best said. “Our backs were against the wall, so we had to have this win tonight, but I told the guys it’s not over. We still have a lot to play for.”
Northwest Rankin got back into he game with back-to-back RBI singles in the sixth inning by Evan Rogers and Brice Ainsworth to cut the Brandon lead down to 4-2.
Southern Miss commit Nick Monistere had a solo home run to left in the seventh inning for the Cougars to cut the Bulldogs’ lead down to 4-3.
With two on and two outs Brandon’s Josh Sullivan struck out Rogers to end the game.
Ryan Herbison (4-1) took the loss on the mound for Northwest Rankin (13-6, 5-1).
“They came out with a lot of energy and put four runs on us early, but the guys kept fighting,” said Northwest Rankin coach K.K. Aldridge. “Give their pitcher credit. He kept us off balance and we couldn’t capitalize early on. We had top of the order up in last inning and got the home run and had guys get on base, but they made the pitches and we didn’t get the job done at the plate.”