Advantage, Central Private.
The Central Private baseball team put Mississippi Association of Independent Schools rival Silliman Institute’s season on the brink with a 9-5 home win Tuesday night, taking a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three Class 2A South State championship series that will decide which team advances to play for an MAIS state title next week.
The Rebels (18-11) and (21-8) Wildcats will meet in Game 2 at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Silliman, with a Game 3 to follow if necessary.
“I’m excited about the win and happy about the position we’re in, but we’re not going to take anything lightly,” Central Private coach Jason Kinchen said.
“We’re going to get prepared the next couple of days as if we’re a game down.”
Despite finishing second to Silliman in district play, MAIS power Central Private took a huge step Tuesday toward repeating as Class 2A champs.
A five-run third propelled Central Private, which took advantage of six Silliman walks and three throwing errors in the inning.
Central Private starter Brandon Trahan wasn’t overpowering, allowing eight hits and striking out only one in a complete-game effort. But he walked none.
Meanwhile, Silliman’s three pitchers combined to walk nine batters.
“It boils down to, we have to throw strikes,” Silliman coach John Beauchamp said. “We didn’t do that. They did. It took away the momentum, and I think my guys let it get in their head a little bit.”
Now the Wildcats, who won two of three against Central Private in the regular season, must win two straight.
“It’s going to be tough, without a doubt,” Beauchamp said. “But if anybody can do it, it’s that group of guys I’ve got. It’s a matter of them continuing to buy in and continuing to be a family.”
The game was a back-and-forth affair until the five-run third, when Silliman used three pitchers and Central Private sent 10 batters to the plate.
Three runs scored on bases-loaded walks. One scored on a wild pitch. The other scored on one of the inning’s three throwing errors.
Central Private had only two hits, a pair of singles, as a 3-2 lead grew to 8-2.
Tristan Butler, the second of two relievers, kept it from getting worse when he induced a bases-loaded, 6-4-3 double play to finally get Silliman out of the inning.
“The main thing coming back Friday,” Beauchamp said, “is to get my guys throwing strikes.”
Silliman had a good chance to get back in the game after the Wildcats loaded the bases with nobody out in the sixth.
Just after Kinchen paid a visit to the mound, Trahan snared Tre Berthelot’s hot liner back up the middle, then picked Jordan Talley off third to complete a double play.
A strikeout of Tyler Boyd ended the inning.
Trahan gave up a pair of unearned runs in the seventh, but retired the final three batters in order and left the bases empty.
Brennan Albarez went 3-for-3 with three RBIs to lead the Central Private offense. Trahan was 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
“Our pitcher was hitting his spots, and our hitters did a good job of competing at the plate,” Kinchen said.
Kinchen said Thomas Doucet will get the start for Central Private in Game 2 on Friday. Mason McKnight is expected to get the nod for Silliman.