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Northwest Rankin wins Game 1 slugfest over DeSoto Central in MHSAA 6A Baseball Championship

The Cougars scored five runs in the first inning to ambush the Jaguars in Game 1

PEARL — The series opener in the 6A Championship was billed as a showdown between two of the state’s very best pitchers in Northwest Rankin’s Nick Monistere and DeSoto Central Bradley Loftin.

The 5,000 or so on hand saw a lot of baseball, but there was no pitching duel to be found.

The Cougars tagged Loftin for five runs on five hits, three walks and two errors in the first inning en route to a wild 9-4 win to take Game 1 from the Jaguars.

“You come out expecting a pitching duel, and I have to give credit to my guys,” Northwest Rankin pitcher K.K. Aldridge said. “We came out with the bats ready to go. Nick got us in gear with a clean first inning and we really jumped on him and really put a hurtin’ on him there in the first.”

Game 2 in the series is set for 7 p.m. Saturday, but could be delayed by the 2A and 3A Championship games, which are set for 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. If necessary, Game 3 would be Sunday at a time to be determined.

If Game 2 is anything like Game 1, there will be some offense.

The Cougars (31-3) racked up 10 hits and drew nine walks. The Jaguars (21-11) scored four runs on seven hits and three walks.

That first inning was a disaster for DeSoto Central.

Evan Rogers led off with a single, Monistere drew a walk and Brady Thomas singled to bring in the first run. That’s when Dawson Muenzenmay stepped to the plate and delivered with a full-count shot into the left-center gap and rolled all the way to the wall for a two-run triple.

“Loftin’s definitely got Grade A stuff,” Muenzenmay said. “He just left a few pitches over the plate and we capitalized on it. I was just looking for something in the zone I could drive. Fortunately, he hung a slider and I did what I’m supposed to do.”

The Cougars got fourth run on Brice Ainsworth’s single that brought Muenzenmay home and a fifth on Layne Cross’s bases-loaded walk.

DeSoto Central got three runs back in the top of the second. Monistere beaned Connor Keough after giving up a leadoff single to Brock Tapper and walking Ryan Musselwhite.

Tapper came into score on a wild pitch, Josh King drove in a run with a single and Ryan Moore brought home another with an RBI groundout.

But that 5-3 deficit was as close as DeSoto Central came to mounting a comeback. The Cougars got a run back on Ainsworth’s second RBI single of the night in the bottom of the second.

Friday’s loss comes with a silver lining for the Jaguars, however. With the game out of hand early, DeSoto Central coach Mark Monaghan pulled Loftin from the game after he threw 49 pitches in the first inning.

Per MHSAA rules, Loftin threw enough pitches to be ineligible to pitch in Saturday’s Game 2, but he will be available if the Jaguars can force a Game 3 for Sunday.

Monistere, on the other hand, is done for the series.

The senior Southern Miss signee worked six innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and three walks with three strikeouts. He threw 109 pitches in his final high school start.

“It’s bittersweet,” Monistere said. “There ain’t nothing better than pitching in front of these fans. I wish I could do it one more time, or even one more year. It feels good to get the win tonight, but we have to put this one behind us and come back tomorrow ready to play.”