After making a mishap on the base paths in the second inning to cost his team a run in a tight game, George County senior Jarett Anders rebounded in dramatic fashion.
Anders hit a two-out, walk-off grand slam over the left field wall in the bottom of the seventh to hand George County (23-3) a 6-2 victory over Harrison Central in Game 1 of the Class 6A third-round playoff series.
The George County players leaped out of the dugout and crowded around Anders as he landed on home plate.
“The first fastball I seen, I was trying to barrel it up the best I could,” Anders said. “It felt great off the bat.”
The big hit by Anders followed a controversial bases-loaded walk issued to George County left fielder Jonathan Havard to tie the game at 2-2. Harrison Central catcher Kyle Howell did his best to frame a pitch down in the zone by Brendan Hardy, but the home plate umpire ruled it a ball to bring home a run.
“Full count, bases loaded, two outs and it’s a borderline call,” George County coach Brandon Davis said. “It happens. I don’t know what to say. I’m not umpiring and I’m glad I don’t get paid to umpire. That call went our way, but that just ties the game. Anders had to step up and get a big hit.”
Harrison Central coach Neil Frederic loudly expressed his disagreement on the ball four call.
“Our guys competed their butts off,” Frederic said. “We came into their park and our guy pitched his heart out.
“We had that killer instinct, but we didn’t execute at the end like we needed to apparently. But that’s the game of baseball. You win some, you lose some. We still have two more games like this. Last I checked, it’s two out of three.”
Game 2 is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Harrison Central (18-10).
Harrison Central took an early 2-0 lead in the first inning when senior first baseman Dillon Morgan went the other way on a fastball up in the zone, lifting the ball over the right field fence.
George County appeared ready to cut the Harrison Central lead to 2-1 in the second inning when Trevor McDonald lifted a drive to left with one out. Havard headed for home from third, but didn’t get there before Anders was tagged out on the relay to third for a double play to end the inning.
“He heard me say, “Tag,” and I was talking to the runner at third,” Davis said.
Anders felt fortunate to have a chance to make up for his mistake.
“It feels great knowing I had the support of my teammates no matter what,” he said.
George County registered its first run of the game on a Harrison Central fielding error in the third inning, cutting the Red Rebels’ lead to 2-1.
George County starting pitcher Logan Tanner, a Mississippi State commit, settled down after giving up the early homer, holding the Red Rebels scoreless over the final six innings to pick up the win.
The hard-throwing right-hander struck out 10 and and walked two to improve to 6-2. He allowed two runs on five hits in seven innings.
“I had to locate my fastball better,” Tanner said. “It was getting away from me in the first. I decided I was going to work on it, try to have less velocity. I was trying to work on it, get in my spots. I had to mix in a curve ball and a slider so I could keep them off balance.”
Hardy (6-1) battled every bit as much as Tanner, giving up no earned runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings. He walked five and struck out three.