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SUNBELT DAY SIX: Mississippi run-rules Missouri for first-ever championship

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Brayden Sanders

Brayden Sanders (34) of Team Mississsippi slides into home plate during the championship of Wednesday's Junior Sunbelt Classic at Mike Deak Field. Sanders had a two-run homer and was 3-for-3 with four RBIs and two runs scored. 

Mississippi players poured out of the dugout to celebrate history.

Team Mississippi (8-2) won its first-ever Junior Sunbelt Classic in a 14-0 run-rule win Wednesday against Team Missouri (9-1) at McAlester's Mike Deak Field. Mississippi was the runner-up in 1997, 2003 and 2016, but never dog-piled and celebrated in McAlester until Sunbelt Most Valuable Player Blayze Berry fanned Parker Wright for the final out.

Stacy Hester, Mississippi's head coach, has won five state championships as a high school baseball coach and said it felt great to win a Sunbelt title.

"Twenty-three years of not having the success and seeing everybody else win, and we're the team that never could get it done," Hester said. "So, it does feel great."

Berry played in his second Sunbelt tournament this year, having been on last year's fifth-place Team Mississippi, and was glad to be part of the first Mississippi championship.

He threw 108 pitches in the complete-game shutout, striking out seven and walking two. He managed to keep his composure in escaping a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the second.

"I knew I had a good defense behind me, and I knew how to throw strikes," Berry said. "...It was a good feeling to get out of that jam."

Team Mississippi gave Berry run support in the third when Jesse Johnson hit a grand slam and rounded the bases with his arm in the air on his way to helping Mississippi take a 7-0 lead.

"I'd never go to a different tournament like this," Johnson said. "This is the best tournament I've ever been to."

Teammate Brayden Sanders later hit a two-run homer for a 9-0 advantage.

"We had a big lead already," Sanders said. "I knew I had to do something to make it even bigger to give ourselves some more confidence."

Missouri head coach Tom Scarbrough praised the team that Mississippi had and said his players never quit.

"What's hard to get a group to do is gel together as a good team, good team chemistry," Scarbrough said. "They had that from the beginning. We've got to go back, and we got to find kids that can do that again."

Hester called these players the best team he's ever brought to McAlester when it came to swinging the bat, and has an appreciation for this group.

"They had great attitudes," Hester said. "From day one, we told them be a band of brothers and they were. They love each other. That's what it takes to be a winning team."

Contact Corey Stolzenbach at CStolzenbach@mcalesternews.com