After top lop-sided contests on Thursday and Friday, Saturday’s series ended with a one-run contest that Saltillo held on to win and end the Center Hill Mustangs’ inspiring playoff run.
In Saltillo, the home-standing Tigers defeated Center Hill 2-1 to win the best-of-three series 2-1 and move into the 5A North Half final against Lafayette (Oxford).
For Center Hill, possibly the longest baseball playoff run in school history ended an 11-21 season that included a coaching change, loss of half the starting lineup to transfers, and injuries to a key player.
Mac Cooley was named new baseball coach about the time school started last fall, as many as five players expected to be in the starting lineup transferred, and a projected starting pitcher was hurt playing in the school’s soccer playoff run last winter.
Center Hill is moving up to 6A next season and Saturday’s contest marked the school’s final athletic competition in the 5A classification. The Mustangs had swept through Vicksburg in two straight and beat Neshoba Central in three games to reach this weekend’s third round.
After defeating the Tigers in Saltillo 11-1 Thursday night, the teams returned to Center Hill on Friday, where Saltillo pounded the Mustangs by a 12-2 score.
Saturday night, the winning run for Saltillo came in the bottom of the sixth inning, after the Tigers had tied the contest with a run in the bottom of the third.
Center Hill took the early lead in the top of the first, when Christo Peeks reached base on an error and Braxton Miller scored from third on the play.
Miller had singled to open the game and had stolen second and took third on a sacrifice fly.
Miller finished with two hits for the game and scored the lone run.
Peeks suffered the pitching loss for Center Hill. Both Saltillo runs scored were earned and Peeks allowed 10 hits, struck out six and walked two.
During the baseball season, Cooley became Center Hill’s coach about the time school started and initially had to deal with the loss of as many as five starters, who transferred.
The Mustangs also dealt with the loss of a pitcher expected to have a strong impact on the rotation, who was injured during the soccer postseason.