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Back in the saddle: West Lauderdale captures state-record 15th Mississippi high school baseball state championship (photos)
PEARL — As it turns out, the West Lauderdale baseball dynasty is alive and well.
Behind some stellar pitching and timely hitting, the Knights beat Sumrall 5-2 to sweep the MHSAA 4A Baseball Championship Series and claim the program’s state-record 15th state title Saturday at Trustmark Park. It was the first title for the Knights since 2017 and the first under Smith, who took over for legendary coach Jerry Boatner in May of 2018.
“What a relief for me and super proud of the boys of the way we swung the bats really well,” said West Lauderdale coach Jason Smith. “We had a great pitching performance from Cole Wilkerson and Dylan Brown. Just a great win for us and state title No. 15. The players, community and the coaches did a great job.”
The Knights (31-6) struck first in the top of the first as Leighton Jenkins and Brooks Buchanan scored on a fielding error to take a 2-0 lead.
Jenkins had a sacrifice fly in the second inning to extend the West Lauderdale lead to 3-0. Sumrall cut the lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the second when Walker Long was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
West Lauderdale extended their lead to 4-1 in the fourth when Wyatt Castle scored on a wild pitch. Buchanan had an RBI single to left to give the Knights a 5-1 lead.
“We had a lot of runners on base and got some key hits to score some runs and give us a cushion,” Smith said. “Sumrall battled and they are a great team, but we were able to throw strikes and keep them off balance by mixing up pitches and that’s how we’ve done it all year.”
Cole Wilkerson (7-2) got the win on the mound for West Lauderdale tossing three and two-third innings scattering four hits, walked four and had three strikeouts. Dylan Brown came in and tossed 4.1 innings to earn the save.
“It started off slow and once I got the nerves out, I settled in and everything was good,” Wilkerson said. “Offense was great today, so I was pitching with a lead and relaxed. Just lit up the zone no matter the pitch. It’s amazing feeling winning state championship. We set a goal every year to get here, and we did it.”
West Lauderdale’s Mason Willis was named the Most Valuable Player of the championship series. He went 1-for-4 at the plate Saturday, but threw a complete game in Friday’s 2-1 win in Game One, allowing one run on three hits and three walks. The Knights had just three hits offensively in that game, then banged out seven Saturday.
“Yesterday, we didn’t have the hitting and today we came through and hit the ball well when we had too,” Willis said. “Cole and Dylan both pitched and did what we’ve done all year. Words cannot describe this feeling. It’s just great.”
Marshall Phillips had two hits with an RBI to lead Sumrall (31-5). Hayden Nored (3-1) took the loss on the mound for the Bobcats, which came into the championship series with a 31-3 record and having been ranked as the top team in 4A for nearly the entire season.
The Bobcats just never could get the big hit when they needed it. They stranded six runners Friday and eight more Saturday.
“West Lauderdale is a really good team,” Sumrall coach Andy Davis said. “They hit the ball and play great defense. They had a complete game and we didn’t get the timely hits we needed too.”