EUNICE, La. — On a night when their basketball counterparts were making history, Pearl River’s fifth-ranked baseball team was making a statement of its own.
The Wildcats picked up a big sweep Friday, topping Murray State College 15-8 before turning back around and beating No. 1 LSU-Eunice 4-3 in 11 innings.
“You saw two really good teams battle and play hard. It was a really good day,” Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said. “We had multiple guys step up and help find a way to win and that’s a mark of a good team.”
The nightcap not only featured timely hitting but when the pitching staff was tasked with getting out of jams to prolong the game, the Wildcat arms came through.
“That’s the definition of a team win,” Avalon said. “The kicker to the second game is we had just played nine innings against a quality team. For them to keep battling and find a way to win, that’s a proud moment of our program.”
Deadlocked after 10 innings against the Bengals (18-4 overall), the Wildcats (12-2) broke through for good in the 11th. Wiley Cleland (Columbia; Columbia Academy) led off the frame with a double and was sacrificed to third by Magruder O’Bannon (Gulfport; St. Stanislaus).
LSU-Eunice turned to its closer who throws in the low 90s and Dexter Jordan (Hattiesburg) hit a two-strike pitch off the left field wall to score Cleland.
“That was huge,” Avalon said.
Jordan’s hit wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for lights out pitching from relievers Reid Golemon (Moselle; South Jones), Trenton Lee (Picayune) and Shemar Page (Raleigh).
After 4 1/3 strong innings from starter Miles Smith (Laurel; Northeast Jones), Golemon entered a 1-1 game with two runners in scoring position and proceeded to pick up a strikeout and groundout to limit the damage.
After two scoreless frames from Lee, Avalon turned to Page with the bases loaded. The Louisiana Tech signee induced a grounder and then struck out the next batter to get the game to the 11th.
“You had guys come into the game in a pressure environment and make big time pressure pitches against the No. 1 team in the country. It was without a doubt a mentality of refusing to lose,” Avalon said. “It was as good of a regular season game as I’ve ever been a part of.”
PRCC opened the scoring in the fourth on a Cleland triple. After LSU-E pulled ahead 3-1 in the seventh Cleland came through again in the eighth with a two-run homer.
Cleland was a single shy of the cycle, hitting a double, triple and homer in the game. Matt Taylor (Raleigh), Austen Izzio (Carriere; Pearl River Central) and Jordan all had two hits.
Smith, Golemon, Lee and Page combined for nine strikeouts on the mound.
“I think today we took the next step. Now, obviously, conference starts and we have to continue to take the next step as the season continues,” Avalon said. “Overall, LSU-Eunice is a powerhouse in D-II baseball, so anytime you can come here, battle in extra innings and come away with the win it’s a big moment for the program.”
GAME 1: Pearl River 15, Murray State College 8
The Wildcats pounced early and then poured it on late to topple the Aggies.
“Murray State is a good program with a lot of tradition,” Avalon said. “Offensively, we had to continue to hit and put space between us and the opponent and we were able to do that.”
PRCC scored in the first inning on an RBI double from Cleland and doubled its lead to 2-0 in the second inning when Reece Ewing (Mobile, Ala.; Faith Academy) scored on an error.
After MSC took a brief 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth, PRCC plated four runs in the sixth and seventh innings and five more in the ninth.
Ewing’s sacrifice fly in the sixth tied the game 3-3. Page blasted PRCC to a 6-3 advantage, belting a three-run homer — his first round-tripper of the season.
Izzio led off the seventh with his second home run of the year. Back-to-back doubles by Jordan and Ewing, plus a misplay by the Aggies, gave the Wildcats a commanding 10-3 advantage.
MSC battled back, but PRCC’s big ninth put the game on ice. Pearl River scored twice on grounders off Ewing and Jordan’s bats and then added two more runs on a Britt McKay (Wiggins; Ocean Springs) triple. An RBI single from Taylor capped the scoring.
Every starter recorded at least one hit in the game, with Izzio, Noah Barron (Hoover, Ala.), Cleland, Jordan and Ewing each tallying two. Both of Barron’s hits were doubles.
Colin Danley (Lucedale; East Central) earned the win, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits and five walks while striking out six in five innings. Evan Bynum (Soso; West Jones), Trace McNabb (Foxworth; West Marion) and Jerod Meggs (Kosciusko) also pitched in the game, combining for five strikeouts.
After a single road game against Spring Hill's junior varsity on March 12, PRCC opens its MACJC schedule March 16 with a matchup against Northeast at Dub Herring Park. The Tigers and Wildcats are set for a 2 p.m. first pitch.
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