Published 7:00 am Thursday, May 8, 2014
CARRIERE — Pearl River Central’s football team played in the Class 5A South State championship in back-to-back seasons several years ago.
The Blue Devils baseball team is one step away from making its first foray that deep into the postseason.
Pearl River Central faces West Jones in the Class 5A South State semifinal round, beginning here at the PRC Sports Complex Friday night at 7. Game two of the best-of-three series takes place in Soso Saturday night at 7, and PRC would host a third and deciding game, if needed, Monday night at 7.
This marks the third time in school history, actually in the past eight seasons, that the Blue Devils have advanced to the South State semifinals. PRC has never played in the South State finals round in baseball.
Pearl River Central beat Wayne County in three games in the quarterfinal round to move on, while the Mustangs upset powerful George County in three games to advance.
West Jones finished third in Region 5-5A, falling to Wayne County in the regular season finale 8-1 in a contest that decided the second and third spots. But the Mustangs bounced back by sweeping Long Beach in opening round action and then knocking off the Rebels, who were favored to win the south.
“If they beat George County, then they can beat anybody,” PRC head coach Neil Walther, whose team won Region 6-5A, said. “We just have to be ready to compete in every inning of every game. They will take advantage of every mistake we make.”
The Blue Devils made it to the Class 5A South State semifinal round two years ago, before falling to eventual state champion Pascagoula. Last season, however, after capturing the Region 7-5A title, PRC was knocked off in two straight games by Stone County to open the state playoffs.
“I think the kids were disappointed in losing to Stone, and they all had high expectations for this season,” Walther, in his sixth year at the helm of the Blue Devils, said. “I think they expected to be here.”
The teams have seen each other this season, recently in fact. The homestanding Mustangs (20-9) beat the Blue Devils (23-6) 10-5 on April 19. The game, however, was a contest that was scheduled after both teams had endured several rain outs and neither team pitched either of its top two pitchers.
Both squads have solid one-two combinations on the pitching mound. Pearl River Central’s senior duo of Chance Putnam and Dylan Spiers have been impressive all season. Putnam, a lefty, is a perfect 7-0 with an earned run average of 1.66 and he has 60 strike outs in just 46 innings pitched. Spiers, meanwhile has an even better ERA of 0.55 and stands 6-2. He has 63 strikeouts in 54 innings of work.
The Mustangs counter with a senior combination as well, as Garrett Goodwin is 6-3 on the season and Tim Jordan is 5-4.
Of the four wins for West Jones so far in the playoffs, three have come in extra innings including both wins over George County.
The winner of this series faces either East Central or Pascagoula in the south state finals.