FLOWOOD — Northwest Rankin baseball and Southern Miss signee Nick Monistere had their eyes set on revenge this season. The Cougars (32-2) were focused on returning to the MHSAA Class 6A state championship and avenging last year’s 2-0 sweep to Madison Central.
Northwest Rankin will get its opportunity after sweeping Brandon (26-8) in the semifinals with a 7-6 Game 2 victory Sunday. Sophomore Bryson Smith scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch with two outs in the seventh inning.
“As soon as I saw it kick out of the dirt I know (Smith) is coming,” Northwest Rankin coach KK Aldridge said. “Then the question is can he beat everybody there, and Bryson has good wheels.”
OREGON FOOTBALL RECRUITING:Dante Dowdell, Mississippi’s top-rated Class of 2023 running back, commits to Oregon football
MHSAA BASEBALL PLAYOFFS:Predicting the winner of each MHSAA 2022 baseball semifinal series
The Bulldogs answered quickly following a 12-7 loss Saturday. Junior Jacob Keys started the game with a two-run home run to left field in the first inning. The Mississippi State commitment finished with two home runs and three RBIs.
Senior Mozelle Little extended Brandon’s lead with an RBI single in the second.
“I thought we did a great job at the plate,” Brandon coach Daniel Best said. “All day we hit the ball.
“I thought we did an outstanding job battling, hitting the ball hard and putting ourselves in position to win.”
Northwest Rankin answered in the second with three consecutive RBI singles — all with two outs — from Evan Rogers, Brady Thomas and Monistere to take a 4-3 lead.
“Since day one when we came back after losing (the championship) last year, we decided to come out here with good intensity and battle with everything,” Thomas said. “We are on the road to redemption.”
Thomas believed the Cougars needed a few at-bats to feel for Mississippi commitment Walker Hooks. The senior answered with a triple in the firth to extend Northwest Rankin’s lead to 6-4.
“We haven’t seen (Hooks) since last year,” Thomas said. “We were focused on mainly hitting the fastball. He couldn’t throw the curveball by us. So, he threw the fast ball and we railed it.”
MSU BASEBALL RECRUITING:Mississippi State baseball signee Charlie Keller has eyes on back-to-back Alabama titles
MISSISSIPPI STATE FOOTBALL RECRUITING:Mississippi State football missed out on 4-star receiver Ayden Williams. What’s next?
The Cougars return to Trustmark Park in back-to-back seasons, but this year has an added meaning for Aldridge.
“I made a promise to Nick that we would get back there and he would get that chance that was taken away from him last year,” Aldridge said. “That’s been my goal all year. To see our guys come in and just get the job done so that he can have that moment out there, I’m extremely proud.”
Monistere threw 26 pitches in relief in Northwest Rankin’s 3-2 loss to Madison Central in Game 1 last year. He was unable to start in Game 2 because of MHSAA pitch count restrictions.
The senior allowed five hits and one run with seven strikeouts in six innings in Game 1 against Brandon. He went 3-for-4 with two RBIs Sunday.
“We expected to be here, but it’s still unreal, ” Monistere said. “I couldn’t be happier for my team.”