Neal scores game-winning run as Natchez High rallies to beat O’Bannon

Published 12:44 pm Monday, March 27, 2023

NATCHEZ — Natchez High School head baseball coach Dan Smith had to use a younger line-up for last Saturday afternoon’s game against O’Bannon High School out of Greenville because a few of the usual starters had to get ready for prom later that night.

One of them was seventh-grader Drylon Scott, who played centerfield for the Bulldogs and started a three-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning with a walk and he later scored.

Later on in the frame, Jaylin Neal walked for the third time and later on scored the game-winning run on a passed ball for a dramatic 9-8 win over the O’Bannon Greenwaves at Chester Willis Field.

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“It was a good game. I was proud of my kids. We had prom last Saturday, so a couple of kids didn’t make it. I had a lot of my young kids and they did good,” Smith said. “We got behind early in the game, but the kids fought back. They stayed focused. We limited our errors and that was the main thing.”

Both teams scored one run in the first inning before O’Bannon got to Bulldogs starting pitcher Skylar Brown in the top of the third inning. The Green Waves scored four runs off him to give them a 5-1 lead. But that’s not exactly how Smith saw it. Jwun Mackey came on in relief of Brown with one out in the top of the third.

Smith described Mackey as one Natchez High’s key players who returned from last season and that’s why Smith brought Mackey in when he did — with the bases loaded.

“He’s a level-headed kid. He threw strikes and we played good defense behind him. Skylar struggled a little bit,” Smith said. “When Jwun came in, the bases were loaded and he held them scoreless. Overall, I was proud of the team effort from top to bottom.”

Mackey was the winning pitcher as he ended up allowing three runs, only one of them earned, on two hits with three strikeouts, two walks, and two hit batters over four and two-third innings. He helped his own cause by going 1-for-2, was walked twice, had two runs batted in, and scored two runs. Scott walked twice and scored two runs while Neal walked three times and scored three runs.

Brown gave up five runs, four of them earned, on four hits, struck out three, and walked six batters.

“Actually, a little bit of patience” is how we won the game, Smith said. “With kids sometimes, they are eager to hit the ball. But they were more patient. A walk is just like a hit when you get behind.”

The Bulldogs won the game despite having just four hits and striking out 13 times against Greenwaves starting and losing pitcher Lekeidric Sutton due to seven walks and two hit batters.

Natchez High scored three runs in the bottom of the third inning to make it a 5-4 game. O’Bannon scored two runs in the top of the fifth inning while holding the Bulldogs to one run in the bottom of the fifth for a 7-5 lead. Each team scored one run in the sixth inning to make it an 8-6 game before the Bulldogs staged its amazing comeback in the bottom of the seventh.

Jalylin Davis went 1-for-3 with two RBIs while Mason Bouldin was 1-for-3 with two RBIs and Jamie Wilson was 1-for-3 to lead the Bulldogs at the plate. O’Bannon was led at the plate by Ashton King, who went 2-for-3 with a triple and one run scored, as well as Chandler Wade, who was 2-for4 with two RBIs and one run scored.

Natchez High (7-8) returned to MHSAA Region 5-5A action last Tuesday night when they played host to Brookhaven High School at 7 p.m., which followed the junior varsity game at 5 p.m.

“They’re pretty good. They’re one of the top tier teams in Class 5A,” Smith said about the Panthers. “Our (region) is one of the toughest. Like I tell my players, if we can play good defense, we can stay in the game.”