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East Central clinches MHSAA 5A State Baseball Championship for the first time since 2008

Mississippi State signee Hollis Porter earned MVP honors, driving in two runs in Thursday's series-clinching win

PEARL — Andrew Marble and the rest of the East Central Hornets grew up in the quiet coast communities of Wade and Hurley hearing about the East Central team that won state in 2008.

On Thursday night, they made a little history of their own.

The Hornets took command early, remained pesky in the batter’s box and rode another solid pitching performance from Marble to a 7-3 win over Neshoba Central to sweep the 2022 MHSAA 5A State Championship Series at Trustmark Park.

“People down there still talk about the last time we made it in 2009,” Marble said. “They didn’t win it that year, so I can’t imagine how long they are going to talk about this one.”

The State Championship was the third in school history. East Central also won state titles in 1981 and 2008.

These Hornets (28-6) won Thursday’s game the same way they won so many this season — with solid pitching and quality at-bats.

Marble gave up a run in the first inning on three hits, including an RBI double to Demarkez West.

Marble was completely dominant after that. He retired 11 of the next 14 batters he faced and held the Rockets scoreless over the next five innings, working around trouble in the fourth and fifth.

“In the playoffs, nobody has really hit me like that,” Marble said. “I was kind of shocked. I couldn’t find my curveball. I just kept throwing.”

As Marble settled down, the East Central bats heated up. They went scoreless in the second and third inning after plating two runs an RBI singles from TJ Dunsford and Carson Ryder in the first inning.

But they came back alive in the fourth, putting up a three-spot on first baseman Hollis Porter’s two-run triple to right and a fielding error to take a 5-1 lead.

Porter, a Mississippi State signee, was 4-for-6 in the series with two RBIs and earned series MVP honors.

Asked if winning Game 1 in dramatic fashion — walking off on Brandt Dickerson’s RBI double in the eighth — had any kind of psychological affect on the team, Porter just grinned.

“I’ll be honest with you,” he said. “Our team ain’t very smart. We just go out there and play baseball.”

“We were hunting fastballs and putting good swings on them, and it worked out.”

The Hornets scored a couple of insurance runs in the sixth on Logan Terry’s one-out single that brought Eli Smith and Porter home.

East Central carries a 7-1 lead into the bottom of the inning, and brought on senior Cadyn Hayes to close it out.

Hayes nearly worked around a leadoff single and a hit-by-pitch with a strikeout and an infield fly, but West launched a missile of a triple to left-center to bring both runners home.

It didn’t phase Hayes much, because the right-hander struck out Garrett Martin to end the game.

“This is so cool,” East Central coach Michael Long said. “It’s a haul from the house to here. And that’s a big turnout. That’s a lot of folks who drove from Hurley. I think today’s Thursday, so they all have to go work tomorrow. This means a lot to our community.”

While the Hornets were celebrating on one side of the field, the Neshoba Central was hurtin’ on the other.

The loss was jus the seventh of the season for the Rockets (29-7), who knocked off defending 5A Champion Saltillo on the road to Pearl.

West put on a show, going 3-for-7 with two doubles and a triple, but the rest of the Rockets only accounted for seven hits in the series.

“We preached all year that if you pitch, you’ve got a chance,” Neshoba Central coach Jonathan Jones. “Even at the end right there, we had a chance. We didn’t lie down, like we always talk about.”