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MHSAA Class 5A Baseball Playoffs preview: It's anybody's game

There are 10 or more teams capable of taking home the MHSAA 5A State Championship

Now that the field is set, it’s time to take a look at the MHSAA Class 5A Playoffs. Here’s some teams and players to watch, a complete list of games for this weekend.

MHSAA 5A Tournament Brackets

First-round matchups

(All series start Friday)

  • Jim Hill (8-9) vs. Cleveland Central (8-16)
  • Lake Cormorant (13-11) vs. Callaway (6-9)
  • Saltillo (19-2) vs. Canton (4-10)
  • Ridgeland (17-10) vs. West Point (10-13)
  • Vancleave (18-9) vs. Hattiesburg (5-17)
  • Wayne County (15-7) vs. George County (20-8)
  • West Jones (13-9) vs. Picayune (12-15)
  • Long Beach (14-10) vs. Florence (9-12)

First-round byes

  • New Hope (24-3)
  • Neshoba Central (20-4)
  • Lafayette (18-6)
  • Vicksburg (18-7)
  • Brookhaven (13-5)
  • Pearl River Central (17-9)
  • South Jones (22-5)
  • East Central (20-5)

The front-runner

There really isn’t one dominant team in 5A, or at least not to this point. New Hope and Neshoba Central have been tough as nails in the north, then there’s defending 5A champion Saltillo, which narrowly missed a first-round bye.

In the south, East Central and South Jones have to be considered the favorites, but George County or West Jones — or any number of teams, really — could play spoiler.

It usually comes down to pitching at this point, and East Central’s Andrew Marble (7-1, 0.75 ERA) and T.J. Dunsford (4-1, 0.97 ERA) are arguably the best one-two punch in the class.

Best opening-round matchup

There’s a couple of good ones this weekend, but we’ll certainly be paying close attention to that Wayne County-George County matchup.

The War Eagles can ever-more hit the baseball. Just look at the top of that Wayne County lineup — leadoff man Colton Greene is batting .453 and Brayden Mills and Konner Adams have combined for 50 RBIs in 22 games. Then look at the bottom of the order, and you’ll see guys like Destin Mills hitting .442 and Cameron Holifield right there at .396.

George County has six everyday players hitting .288 or better, with junior Klay Fryfogle leading the way with a .377 average and a team-high 30 RBIs. The key matchup here is George County’s starters Levi Foshee (3-4, 2.68 ERA) and Bubba Herrington (3-0, 3.25 ERA) against that potent Wayne County offense.

Collision Course

The West Jones Mustangs played a tough schedule this year, so they are battle-tested going into the first round against the Picayune Maroon Tide.

Senior Francisco Elvira (3-1, 2.20 ERA) and junior Caleb Flynn (3-2, 2.75 ERA) have been solid starters for West Jones, and Lawson Odom (3-1, 0.24 ERA) is one of those guys who can go start a game or give you multiple innings in relief. If West Jones wins, it would set up a huge cross-county showdown with South Jones in the second round.

Picayune would love to play spoiler here, and the Maroon Tide has the bats to do it. Coach Evan Nicholson’s squad has been streaky all year, and they are hot headed into the playoffs, riding a three-game winning streak and after scoring five or more runs in four of their last six games.