HURLEY, MS (WLOX) - George County senior Tanner Huddleston had three home runs in 20 regular season games to help the Rebels earn a region 8-5A championship.
Thursday night, Huddleston smacked two more homers in George County's 5-2 win over the East Central Hornets to vault the Rebels into the 5A state championship series.
East Central senior and Mississippi State signee Konnor Pilkington and George County senior Ian Goff matched each other stride for stride through the first four innings on the mound. Both teams had their fair share of runners on base, but the starting pitchers were able to keep the game scoreless for the time being.
That was until the fifth inning. With two runners aboard and two outs, Huddleston lofted a breaking ball from Pilkington over the left-center field wall to end the scoreless tie.
It remained 3-0 until the bottom of the sixth inning when East Central senior Eric Saksa hit a two-run homer over the big wall in left field to insert life into the Hornets and their fan base.
Pilkington followed with a double that fell a few feet shy of clearing the wall in center field. He was lifted for a courtesy runner.
Goff then hit the next batter with a pitch, which equaled the end of the line for him. Goff's final pitching line included 5 1/3 innings, two runs and seven hits allowed.
Huddleston relieved Goff with just one out in the sixth inning and two runners on base. After forcing a ground ball fielder's choice to record the second out, Huddleston recorded a strikeout to strand the runners.
Just a few minutes later, Huddleston entered the batter's box with a runner on base and exited after demolishing a belt-high fastball off a light pole in left-center field.
Through seven playoff games, Huddleston has hit four baseballs over the fence.
He finished the Hornets off in the seventh, helping the Rebels (22-6) to a 5-2 win and a spot in the 5A state championship series against either New Hope or Oxford.
East Central (17-11) has its season end in the 5A south state championship for the second straight year. In 2014, the Hornets were ousted by the West Jones Mustangs, who were eliminated by East Central this year.