Madison Central first baseman Matthew Zimmerman snags the throw in time to put out Ridgeland’s Alan Merkle (1).
Madison Central first baseman Matthew Zimmerman snags the throw in time to put out Ridgeland’s Alan Merkle (1).
It took everything they had, but the Madison Central Jaguars picked up a key 10-9 win Saturday over cross-town rival Ridgeland thanks to a walk-off sacrifice fly in the ninth inning.

The Jaguars scored three runs in the seventh to push it to extra innings, and won it after junior Hill Garbo singled, advanced to third on a Matt Mordecai double and scored on a deep fly ball to left field off the bat of Morgan Alexander.

"I just tried to look for anything I could lift to the outfield," Alexander said. "It was a fastball, and I got just enough on it."

Down three in the bottom of the seventh, MC loaded up the bases with nobody out and cashed in. Third-baseman Jacob Wooten drove in Baker Hill with a sacrifice fly, and after an RBI single from Matt Zimmerman, Mordecai tied the game with a one-out fly ball to center field just deep enough to allow Trace Hamby to race home from third base ahead of the throw.

It was a worthy ending to a game. Madison trailed 5-1 after two innings, 8-3 midway through the fifth and 9-6 headed into what looked like the final inning.

"That's what is special about this group of guys," elated MC coach Chad Davis said. "They don't quit."

While the bats were heating up, MC pitcher Austin Howland was doing his fire-hose impression. The junior gave up one run on two hits and a walk, but retired nine of the 13 batters he faced, including three strikeouts, in the final three innings. Ridgeland was 11-for-35 (a .314 average) against the three pitchers prior to him, and 2-for-11 (.182) against the right-hander.

Howland (2-1) was the bright spot in a game that was rough on pitchers from both teams. The two lineups combined for 28 hits, and 13 of those came off of the two starters.

Ailing senior Will Rutland drew the spot-start for Madison Central. Rutland had been struggling with an injury, and never looked comfortable. He faced all nine Ridgeland hitters in the first inning, and gave up three runs on four hits and a walk.

"We didn't expect to get but an inning or two out of him," Davis said. "We just wanted to get him out there and throwing to see how he's progressing. Unfortunately, we didn't get but an inning ... but it's all a part of the process."

Ridgeland ace Peyton Joe was solid for six innings, but ran out of gas. The junior had only given up two earned runs through six innings when he beaned Baker Hill and gave up a single to Austin Lowther to start the seventh.

Joe (2-2) was looking for his third consecutive win and complete game, but came out after the rocky start to the seventh inning. Joe's four earned runs he was allotted ran his season ERA to a still-solid 3.10.

The Jaguars (5-5, 0-2 in Region 6-3A) needed the win. Madison Central was coming off a pair of midweek losses to undefeated Region 3 foe Columbus, and was headed into another two-game region series against Starkville.

"I definitely think this game is going to provide us with a boost," Alexander said. "We needed to get back on track headed into this week's games. I think we're going to go on a late-season run, and this is the kind of game we have to win to do that."

For Ridgeland (4-6), Saturday was another disappointing trip into overtime against Madison Central. The Titans have now lost three straight to the Jaguars, all in extra innings, and this one came in a game that coach Clint Wilkerson's squad should have won in regulation.

The Titans (4-6) are still undefeated at 2-0 in Region 3-5A play and seem to have the bats and the pitching to string together some wins, but they'll have to improve defensively to do it. With four errors against Madison Central, Ridgeland fielders have now committed 18 errors in 10 games. Twenty of the 65 runs they've allowed are unearned.

"My guys played their hearts out, but our defense got us again," Wilkerson said. "It's been our Achilles' heel so far this year, but we've got a bunch of young guys who battled, and that's all I can ask of the guys."

Wilkerson's Saturday lineup was the youngest in school history, he said, and featured just two seniors. That duo, second baseman Emil Ellis and third baseman Jackson Twitty, combined to reach base in 6-of-12 at bats.