The George County baseball team's pursuit of its first state state championship since 1997 will come down to a Game 3 at 1 p.m. Saturday at Trustmark Park.
DeSoto Central senior right-hander Matthew Taylor proved too much to handle for the Rebels on Thursday night in Game 2 of the Class 6A state title series. He gave up no earned runs on two hits, struck out 13 and walked two in seven innings as DeSoto Central (29-9) pulled away for a 5-1 victory in Game 2.
After riding a first-inning grand slam by Cameron Cotten to the 5-4 win in Game 1, George County (27-5) never got the big hit it needed in Game 2.
“We didn't swing the bat well,” George County coach Brandon Davis said. “Cotten has the bases loaded (in the third inning) tonight, strikes out. Whereas last night, he hits a home run.
“It's hard to ask the same guy, but when you get up in that position that's why you're in that position. You've got to make those plays at the plate.”
Cotten was far from the only George County hitter to struggle at the plate. Ethan Coleman and Cole Pugh produced the only two hits of the night.
Trevor McDonald (7-2) was the tough-luck loser for George County, giving up two earned runs on seven hits in six innings. He struck out five and walked three.
A pair of defensive miscues in the fourth inning allowed DeSoto Central to take the lead for good at 3-1.
Now that Logan Tanner and McDonald have taken the mound in the series, Davis will have to rely on a mixture of three pitchers on Saturday — sophomore lefty Jonathan Havard, junior Cody McDonel and freshman Alan Williams.
“It's going to take a lot to keep their guys off balance,” Davis said. “The guys we have can probably go one time through the order at best. The second time, they'll have to pitch above their head. McDoniel can do that. He's a little more comfortable after making two (one-inning) appearances. We'll look at it and see what we come up with in practice.”
George County will participate in graduation Friday night before returning Saturday for the early afternoon start.
“We're going to make some changes in the bottom half of the lineup,” Davis said. “We've got to find ways to get guys on base. Saturday is going to be a Saturday high school baseball game, and they swing it better than we do. The numbers say that, and what I've seen says that. We're going to have to do a best job of pitching, whatever combo we come up with.”
George County has a .274 team batting average. DeSoto Central checks in at .347.
Senior lefty Hamp Houston (4-1, 4.20) will be the starting pitcher for DeSoto Central Saturday.
“We've got a great bullpen,” DeSoto Central coach Mark Monaghan said. “We have a lot of guys we trust so we feel really good about where we are pitching.”
DeSoto Central pounded out eight hits Thursday night with Kamren James, Kyle Booker and Shemaar Stapleton each coming up with two hits apiece.
“I felt like our approach was not bad against a really good arm (in Tanner). We just wanted to have an aggressive approach, and we swing the bat. Things worked out our way, and we were able to get on top early. That's what you do is score first, handle the bat and score runs with two outs.”