There was good news and bad news that came with the Ocean Springs baseball team clinching the Region 7-6A title.
The good news: OSHS earned a first-round bye in the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs last weekend and instead played what amounted to an exhibition game against Hattiesburg.
The bad news: The Greyhounds’ second-round opponent is Brandon.
First pitch at OSHS is 6 p.m. Friday. Game 2 is 6 p.m. Saturday at Brandon. If necessary, Game 3 will be 6 p.m. Monday at Ocean Springs.
The Bulldogs enter this weekend’s dogfight with a 25-5 record. MaxPreps.com ranks BHS fourth in Mississippi and No. 55 nationally, according to the site’s computer rankings.
“Brandon is a very solid club,” OSHS coach Brian Rea said. “Everybody I talk to goes on and on about how well rounded of a baseball club they are. They have a really nice record. And finishing second in Oak Grove’s region, no knock doing that.
“They’re going to be a stiff test.”
The lead dog on Brandon is unquestionably J.T. Ginn, a junior right-hander/shortstop who is committed to Mississippi State.
“He’s a big-time player,” Rea said.
Ginn is hitting .494 with 34 runs scored, 66 RBIs, nine doubles, four grand slams and 16 of the team’s 31 homers. As if that wasn’t enough, Ginn throws in the low 90s and is 4-0 on the mound with a 2.23 ERA, three saves and 52 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings.
Perfect Game ranks Ginn as Mississippi’s second-best prospect in the class of 2018 and the 45th player nationally.
Beyond Ginn, Brandon has six other regulars hitting above .330 and boasts a pitching staff with a 3.45 ERA. Even with all that, Rea’s Greyhounds (16-13) are confident heading into the series.
“I think it’s a good matchup, as crazy as that sounds,” Rea said. “I think our team is really built for a best 2-of-3 series.”
Cooper Brune (5-2, 0.41 ERA) and Garrett Crochet (4-3, 1.74) headline the Greyhounds’ pitching staff, but Rea points to depth with guys such as Malcolm Beaugez (1-2, 2.13), Garrett Watson (1-1, 2.51) and Chance Goley (2-3, 1.15) as reasons for optimism.
“Everyone knows about Brune and Crochet but we have two or three others who have been able to get good work in,” he said. “We feel good about if the series gets into a third game. We have some pitching depth people don’t give us enough credit for. We just haven’t had to use it a lot.”
West Harrison will get a big boost in its Class 5A second-round matchup against Wayne County (12-13) this weekend with the return of Kasey Donaldson.
Donaldson has been a regular in the outfield for the Hurricanes (18-8), but a nagging injury has limited the southpaw to just 14 2/3 innings on the mound.
“Kasey coming back does a lot for us in terms of pitching,” WHHS coach David Marsland said. “Kasey couldn’t be coming back to us at a better time. This is when we need him.”
Before he was injured, Donaldson was 2-1 with a 1.43 ERA and 14 strikeouts. He has also remained one of West Harrison’s most consistent batters, hitting .361 with two homers and team-highs in RBIs (29) and doubles (8).
West Harrison actually enters the playoffs having lost five of eight despite being one of South Mississippi’s best teams for much of the season. The Hurricanes’ batting order will need to find consistency if they’re hoping to advance to the third round.
“We’re at a point where we tried to regroup, get back to where we were at beginning of season,” said Marsland, whose team opened the year 7-1. “We’ve had good practices and the kids’ mindset is high. We’re going in with the mindset that we have to win the next game ahead of us. That’s the only way we can get by. We’re not looking ahead of anyone.
“If we’re going to make a good run, our 1-5 (batters) have to produce like they did at the beginning and middle of season.”
The series will open at 7 p.m. Friday at West Harrison. Wayne County hosts Game 2 at 4 p.m Saturday. Game 3, if necessary, is back at WHHS at 7 p.m. Monday.
Class 6A: Oak Grove/George County, Pearl/Biloxi, Gulfport/Petal
Class 5A: Pearl River Central/West Jones, Long Beach/Brookhaven
Class 4A: East Central/Sumrall, St. Stanislaus/Northeast Lauderdale
Class 3A: St. Patrick/Franklin County
Class 1A: Resurrection/Noxapater