George County senior Cameron Cotten entered Wednesday night's Game 1 of the Class 6A state title series with two career home runs.
He won't forget his third.
Cotten put together a monster night at Trustmark Park, leading the Rebels to a 5-4 victory over Desoto Central to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
Cotten hit a grand slam in the top of the first and brought in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning on a bloop single to knock in all five runs for George County (27-4).
His grand slam hit the back wall of the bullpen in left field — an impressive shot at a ballpark known for its lack of long balls.
“I didn't think it was going out,” Cotten said. “I thought it was a pop up, honestly. I don't feel it when I do hit one. It was an awesome feeling, though.”
Cotten, who finished 2-for-3 at the plate, has been the designated hitter all season after suffering a torn labrum.
Game 2 is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Trustmark Park.
Wednesday's game was George County's first win in the state title round since the program won its first and only state title in 1997 — a team that Rebels head coach Brandon Davis was a part of.
Cotten's homer didn't come as a surprise to Davis.
“He hits a lot of balls to the opposite field, but the coach at East Central College signed him because he knows how much power he has,” Davis said. “For him to have that moment in the state championship is pretty big. We're undefeated when we score four runs and we had four runs in the first inning.”
While Cotten provided the production at the plate for George County, junior right-hander Logan Tanner only got stronger on the mound as the game went along.
Tanner hit 94 miles per hour in the first inning, but had his velocity dip down midway through the game. After Cotten gave George County the lead again, Tanner struck out the side in the sixth with a fastball that hit 92.
“You've always got to save a little bit for the win,” Tanner said. “Somebody has to want to win more. Why not me?”
Tanner hit the 120-pitch limit and had to leave the game after giving up a leadoff single to Blaze Jordan in the bottom of the seventh.
Junior Cody McDoniel entered the game to replace Tanner and forced Peyton Mills to pop out to third on a failed bunt attempt for the first out. On the same play, third baseman Colby Cochran threw high to first, allowing pinch runner Avery Eddy to go all the way to third.
McDoniel managed to strike out Kyle Booker for the second out of the seventh.
The final out took place in an odd moment when Eddy tried to steal home, but was tagged out in front of the plate by Tanner, who had moved behind the plate.
“I see him and I'm just going to jump out in front of the plate, catch it,” Tanner said. “If he swings and hits me, he's got to go back to third base. So nothing worse could have happened.”
Tanner gave up four runs on nine hits in six innings, striking out 12 and walking three.
Desoto Central sophomore Cade Smith took the loss, allowing five earned runs on four hits in 4 1/3 innings.
George County will go with junior right-hander Trevor McDonald (7-1, 1.41) in Game 2.