Cooper McNeel’s two-run single with one out in the top of the seventh inning propelled the Starkville Academy baseball team to a 7-5 win over Simpson Academy and a 2-1 victory in their MAIS Class 5A second-round playoff series.
Harris McReynolds led off the seventh with a single to center, and Ayden Alsobrooks doubled to put runners at second and third. Simpson chose to walk Colby Allen intentionally to set up a force before McNeel’s game-winning hit.
The Vols tried for an insurance run, but courtesy runner Brady Johnson was thrown out trying to score on a fly to center by Evan Siary.
After Simpson took a 2-0 lead in the first, Starkville Academy tied the score in the third. Randall Futral led off with a walk, and Alsobrooks doubled. McNeel was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and runs were forced home when Siary was hit by a pitch and Will McReynolds walked.
It was 5-2 after five, but the Vols again tied the game, this time with three runs in the sixth. They loaded the bases without a hit, as Futral and Alsobrooks were hit by pitches and Allen walked. A grounder to third made it 5-3 before Will McReynolds walked in a run. Hayes Davis was hit by a pitch to force in another run and make it 5-5.
The Vols won despite being outhit 10-5. Alsobrooks was the only SA player with two hits. McNeel drove in three runs, while Futral and Alsobrooks each scored two runs.
Four Simpson pitchers combined to issue 11 walks, with McReynolds drawing four of them.
Evan Siary pitched into the fifth inning for the Vols, allowing four earned runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts. Allen finished the game, getting the win with 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
Simpson forced a Game 3 by winning the opener, scoring in the bottom of the seventh for a 1-0 win.
Drew Williams went the distance for the Volunteers, pitching 6 2/3 innings, allowing five hits and one walk with six strikeouts.
Simpson’s Ben Kennedy reached on an error to start the seventh inning and took second on a sacrifice bunt. Carter Cockrell followed with a double, but McNeel threw out Kennedy trying to score. With two outs, Brentley Berry singled to drive in the game’s only run.
Starkville Academy (30-6) advances to the 5A North finals against East Rankin or Magnolia Heights.