BILOXI -- Harrison Central took advantage of shaky Hancock infield play in the first two innings and then hung on for a 2-1 win Thursday at MGM Park.
The Red Rebels' win gives all four teams in Region 8-6A a 3-3 mark on the year with four games left to play. The district also includes Biloxi and Gulfport.
"This was a game we needed to win," said Rebels coach Pat Olmi.
Hancock coach Anthony DeWitt said the season came down to a four-game stretch at the end. He said he told his team after the game that they were where they needed to be.
"We are still in the hunt for the playoffs," he said. "We can still win the district."
Behind a solid defense and pitching with a 2-0 lead, Rebels sophomore pitcher Brett Hughes cruised through the first for innings, allowing only Michael Marie's second-inning infield single, although he did hit two Hawks batters. However, Marie led off the top of the fifth reaching on an error. Marie would steal second and advance to third on a passed ball.
Hughes looked like he would get out of the inning undamaged getting a strikeout and a grounder to third to keep Marie from scoring. Leadoff hitter Brindon Hoda, though, would follow with a weak grounder to short for a hit, scoring Hughes and bringing Hancock to within one run, 2-1. Landon Jordan would follow with a hard double to right, putting runners on second and third.
Hughes though would get out of the inning, getting the third out on a grounder to short.
In the sixth, B.J. Kennedy reached on a third strike in the dirt and advanced to second on an overthrow to first by the Rebels catcher. Bryce Warren moved Matthew Bourgeois, running for Kennedy, to third with a sacrifice bunt for the first out. Hughes again bit down, getting the second out on a strikeout and the third out on a grounder to short.
"It hurt," Hughes said of the errors behind him. "But, I had to brush them off and keep working through it. I was trying to throw strikes. I knew my defense had my back."
"(Hughes) does a good job for us," Olmi said. "He was a bulldog out there for us."
For DeWitt's Hancock team (7-6), the game came down to missed opportunities.
"We had a couple of chances to get runs across late in the game, but we couldn't get the big hit," he said.
Harrison-Central (9-6) could also look to missed chances on the night, allowing Hancock to stay within striking distance.
Logan Virgilio opened the game for the Rebels, reaching second base on an overthrow by the Hawks' second baseman. Ian Colon bunted him to third and he scored the game's first run on Mason Saucier's grounder to short.
In the second inning, Brendan Hardy reached second with one out on an overthrow by the second baseman. He scored with two outs in the inning when D'Artagnan Hawthorne ripped a solid single to right to give the Rebels a 2-0 lead. Those would be the only two runs Hawks pitcher Kennedy gave up.
In the third, a double by Virgilio and an infield single by Saucier gave the Rebels runners on the corner with one out. Kennedy, though, would end the threat inducing a grounder back to the mound and getting out of the inning with a strikeout. In the fourth, one out singles by Christian Litz and Hawthorne put runners at first and second. A grounder to third would move both runners into scoring position before Kennedy worked out of trouble inducing a grounder to short.
With one out in the sixth, Hardy singled and Litz walked. Hawthorne grounded to short to put runners on the corners with two outs. Kennedy stopped them there, getting out of the inning with a grounder to third.
"We've been doing that all year," said Olmi of the Rebels' penchant for leaving runners in scoring position. "We really need someone to step up and deliver the big hit for us."
DeWitt noted Kennedy was the Hawks' closer last year.
"He's used to being in tough spots," he said. "He buckles down when there are runners on board."
Hughes got the complete-game win, giving up three hits and allowing one unearned run. Kennedy took the tough complete-game loss, giving up six hits and allowing just two unearned runs.
Hawthorne was the only player with multiple hits in the game, going 2-for-3 for the Rebels.