West Jones’ season came to an end in Game 3 of the Class 5A South State series.
Big innings are hard to overcome, especially deep in the playoffs, as was the case for the Mustangs Tuesday night.
East Central produced a six-run frame in the third on a West Jones error, five walks, a run-scoring balk, and three hits to put the game out of reach.
The 10-3 win for East Central sends them to the Class 5A Championship series at Trustmark Park in Pearl, which will begin next week.
West Jones ends the 2023 season with an overall record of 25-10.
"The better team won tonight," said West Jones head coach Trey Sutton. "East Central just outplayed us. The big inning was obviously huge [for them]. They took advantage of our mistakes, and good teams do that."
Senior Kelton Hosey smashed a three-run bomb in the second to give West Jones an early 3-1 lead.
East Central more than answered in the next inning.
After back-to-back bases-loaded walks tied the game, a balk call with the bases still packed gave East Central the go-ahead run. Two hits later, a two-run triple and RBI single completed the six-run frame. All six runs were scored before an out was recorded.
"East Central made us pay with some big hits with guys on," said Sutton. "That was the story of this series. In Game 1, they got hits with guys on, but in Game 2, Camden did a great job of limiting that. Tonight, we couldn't overcome some of that.
The Hornets added a solo home run in the fourth and a two-run single in the sixth.
"It was a great series," said Sutton. "East Central is a great ball club, and they just beat us."
West Jones only managed four hits in the contest.
The Mustangs roster consisted of four seniors, whom Sutton said would be significantly missed.
“They are great kids and hard workers,” said Sutton. “They poured a lot into the program. I’m really proud of our group of seniors.”
"We expect to be in the mix every year," added Sutton. "And this year, in the end, we were. That's largely due to our team's senior leadership and their hard work. We'll miss them next year."
Seven of West Jones' Game 3 starters are set to return in 2024, and more contributed a lot of innings on the mound and in the field.
"We excited about the innings played and innings pitched with the guys that'll be returning," said Sutton. "We have guys that were out on the field a lot this year. We'll lose Lawson Odom, Caleb Flynn, Kelton Hosey, and Reshawn Keyes, and they did a lot for us this year, but we have a lot of guys coming back that were a big part of this. So, that's exciting."