Jalin McMillan was the easy player to spot as Simeon took on rival Morgan Park.
He was the one doing everything.
The starting third baseman blasted a monster home run and drove in two runs, collected three hits and scored two runs as the host Wolverines knocked out the defending city champion Mustangs 8-6 at West Chatham Park Friday.
McMillan also pitched 3 2/3 innings of relief as Simeon (10-2, 3-0 Jackie Robinson South) survived Morgan Park’s late rally to pull out the victory. Jamary McKinney also showcased his all-around talents. The starting first baseman knocked in two runs in going 3-for-4 for the Wolverines.
Most importantly, McKinney shut the door on the Mustangs after an exhausted McMillan walked in a run that cut Simeon’s four-run advantage to 8-5 with no outs in the seventh inning.
McKinney coaxed a double play that punched home Morgan Park’s final run. He ended the game by retiring Morgan Park second baseman Jonathon Hodo on a groundout.
“They asked me if I could end the game, and I tried but I just couldn’t,” McMillan said. “Fortunately Jamary was there to pick us up.”
McMillan played his role to perfection. Simeon jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two innings, taking advantage of two Morgan Park errors, a wild pitch and passed ball. Morgan Park answered in the third as right fielder Tyler Hill laced a triple to deep left field that scored two for the Mustangs (12-6, 2-1).
In the Simeon third, McMillan restored order with his shot that flared out like a Roman candle. He stopped at second base, thinking it was a ground rule double as the park had no fences. The umpire ruled it a home run.
“He threw me an inside fastball, and I just waited on it,” McMillan said. “I didn’t know at first if it was a home run, that’s why I stopped at second.”
McMillan relieved Simeon starter Tavaris Terrell in the fourth with one out and the bases loaded. He got the Wolverines out of the jam as shortstop Lorenzo Elion snared a line drive and doubled the runner off at second to end the threat.
The Mustangs inability to convert with runners in scoring position decided the game, Morgan Park coach Ernest Radcliffe said.
“We made too many mistakes early and that gave them the early runs,” he said. “The biggest issue was our inability to get hits with runners in scoring position. We left eight or nine batters on base, with one out, and that was the difference.”
McMillan and McKinney are the 3-4 hitters in the Wolverines’ lineup. As it happened, they delivered two decisive hits in the sixth. With Simeon up 6-4, McKinney looped a flare into center that scored Dion Earls Jr. McKinney followed with a rope to right center for an RBI double.
“I was waiting for something there, and he just gave the pitch I wanted and I was able to jump on it,” McKinney said.
Last year, Simeon defeated Morgan Park twice in conference play. The Mustangs rode a late-season surge to a city title in beating Taft.
“I was really just playing ball and not thinking about that,” McKinney said. “But this is our biggest rival, the battle of Vincennes and we had something to prove out there.”