East Central standout senior T.J. Dunsford made sure that his defending Class 5A state champion Hornets started out Region 8-7A play in fine fashion Wednesday night.
The Southern Miss baseball signee and all-state football stalwart completely dominated arch-rival Vancleave in an 8-0 shut out win at home, as he produced a commanding complete game one-hit performance on the mound.
Dunsford struck out nine and walked just one to go along with the lone Bulldog hit. His Hornet teammates went to work quickly in supporting him at the plate, as ECHS took an early 1-0 lead in the first frame and then stretched that advantage out to 6-0 with a pair of runs in the second and three more in the third. The Hornets then added single runs in the fourth and sixth stanza to seal the win.
Andrew Marble led East Central at the plate with a pair of hits, including a double, and he drove in a pair of runs as well. Logan terry also chipped in two hits to the winning effort, including a run-scoring double. Nate Trochessett also added a double, and Haydn Porter, Anthony Tanner and Brandt Dickerson all drove in a run apiece.
Layton Eder had the only VHS hit, while Hunter Parker started and took the loss with three innings of work. Dane McElroy relieved Parker and finished the game out with three frames of work as well.
The contest was the first of three in a four-day span, weather permitting, between the two long-time foes as the squads will face off again Friday night at The Landing in Vancleave before closing the region-opening series for both the Hornets and Bulldogs out Saturday back in Hurley.
This series pits a pair of Jackson County rivals that have both won prep state championships recently. As mentioned, East Central won the Class 5A crown last year in 2022 and Vancleave captured the 2018 Class 4A state title.
Wednesday night’s game was pushed back a day because of inclement weather on Tuesday night. Another league opener featuring Region 8-5A teams between George County and Gautier was also a weather casualty Tuesday night and those two teams are now scheduled to meet on three straight days starting with Thursday night in Luceale before shifting to Gautier for contests on Friday and Saturday.
The other defending prep baseball state champion in Jackson County, the Resurrection Eagles, also begin league play Thursday night traveling to Lumberton to take on the home-standing Panthers in the Region 8-1A opener for both squads.
Last season marked just the second time ever that two teams from Jackson County won prep state baseball championships in the same season. Fifteen years ago, in 2008, both the Hornets in Class 4A and the Ocean Springs Greyhounds in Class 5A each took home crowns in the same campaign.