The Ocean Springs baseball team scored twice in the bottom of the sixth inning to win a pitching duel against Brandon 3-1 on Monday and advance to the third round of the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs.
With the win, the Greyhounds advance to meet Gulfport. They’re the only Mississippi team to beat Gulfport (28-3), topping the Admirals 4-0 March 10. The series will start Thursday at Gulfport.
“We are excited to be playing Gulfport,” Ocean Springs Brian Rea said. “They are a familiar foe. We are excited to keep playing in the playoffs.”
For five innings, Ocean Springs (18-14) struggled with runners at third, going 0 for 6 with five strikeouts, including striking out all three times they had runners on third with less than two outs. In the sixth, however, against Bulldogs staff ace J.T. Ginn, the Greyhounds finally came through.
Ginn, a Mississippi State signee, got the first two outs of the sixth on strikeouts. However, he hit Ocean Springs third baseman Tres Wade in the head, starting the Greyhounds’ rally. Wade was temporarily taken out of the game, with Jaydon Collins coming in to run. Bailey Keeton walked, putting runners on first and second. Collins and Keeton then stole second and third.
Ginn quickly got two strikes on Max Horner. But Horner managed to connect on a slow roller to Bulldogs freshman shortstop Gentry Tigrett. Horner slid into first head first to beat out Tigrett’s throw, allowing Collins to score and giving the Greyhounds a 2-1 lead. Keeton followed Collins home as Tigrett’s throw, which was in the dirt, bounced away from first.
“I just wanted to make contact,” Horner said. “After that, I was hustling down to first. I was doing everything I could to get on base.”
Horner’s play came after Brandon (26-7) had a chance to score in the top of the sixth. Ocean Springs starter Garrett Watson overcame some first-inning difficulties and pitched lights out through five, allowing just six base runners through the first five innings, three of which came in the initial inning. Two of the three base runners allowed after the first were erased — one on a pickoff and the other on a double play.
However, in the sixth inning, Watson walked the first two Brandon batters — Ginn and Matt Warren — before giving way to Chance Goley. Matt McCurley, the first batter faced by Goley, laced a single into right. For the second time in the series, Garrett Crochet’s arm came up big for Ocean Springs. Crochet, who picked up the win on the mound in the first game, quickly came up with the ball and fired a strike to Greyhounds catcher Britt McKay, catching the ball with Ginn well up the line for the first out.
“At the time, they had runners on first and second with no one out,” Rae said, adding the play at the plate was key to the win. “That play gave us the momentum. It just seemed to put some wind in our sails.”
“(Crochet) made an excellent throw,” Goley said. “It just shows how much the little things mean in baseball.”
Brandon coach Stacy Hester was unapologetic after the game, noting the difficulty the Bulldogs had getting runners on base against Watson.
“I would send him again,” he said.
Goley got out of the inning with a pair of strikeouts. He struck out two more in the seventh to pick up the win with four strikeouts in two innings of relief work.
“Our pitching was the key to the game,” Rae said, adding pitching became particularly important after Ginn took the mound in the third inning. “We had to match him inning for inning. Watson gave a great effort. I felt he rose to the challenge.”
Watson started the game with a strikeout, but Ginn followed with a double to right-center. Warren’s grounder to first moved Ginn to third with two outs. McCurley walked before Landon Dial singled to give Brandon an early 1-0 lead.
Ocean Springs evened the game in the second inning. Malcolm Beaugez singled and went to second on a wild pitch. Goley followed with a misplayed double to score Beaugez.
In the third, the Greyhounds had a chance to take the lead with Cooper Brune walking and going to second on a balk. Austin Cates followed with a single and stole second to put runners on second and third with no outs. However, Ginn, who struck out seven in four innings for the win, came on and struck out the next three batters to get out of the inning with the game still tied.
Ginn finished with 10 strikeouts over five innings to finish with 17 strikeouts in the series.
“It’s little wonder that he is one of the best players in Mississippi,” Rea said.
Cates finished with three stolen bases as Ocean Springs had seven stolen bases in the game.