No. 1 Pearl River earns hard-fought split with East Mississippi
Dylan Dunaway - PRCC Sports Information Director
POPLARVILLE, Miss. — It was truly a fitting end to the No. 1 Pearl River baseball team's doubleheader against East Mississippi. After missing 22 games due to injury, team captain John Griffin Bell (Mobile, Ala.; Faith Academy) stepped into the batter's box in the bottom of the ninth inning and put a ball into play that led to a walk-off victory and series split for the Wildcats. PRCC fell in game one 4-2 before taking the nightcap 4-3.
"They were first in the conference and leave first in the conference. That's frustrating to us, but they deserved that after the way they played today," Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said.
"It's a tough league. Everyone says that, but they really don't understand that. When you lose games to a good team, it's pretty easy to see why you lost. When you get opportunities to score against a good team and you don't execute that's usually the reason why. We left a lot of runners on base in game one. I'm proud of the way that we finished game two."
After the game, Avalon delivered a message to standout pitcher Leif Moore and his family.
"We need our Wildcat family to say prayers for Leif Moore," he said. "His dad is in a battle right now and Leif hasn't been with us the last few days. He's where he needs to be, taking care of his dad and with his family. That's a tough situation for any young man. Our prayers are with that family. I know Leif wanted to be here today, but he is where he is supposed to be. We are thinking of him, and we love him."
GAME ONE A pair of quiet innings went by to begin the day before East Mississippi (15-10 overall; 10-2 MACCC) took control of the game in the third inning. The frame began with a walk and a single followed up by a three-run homer that gave the Lions the lead.
EMCC extended its lead out to 4-0 an inning later with a sacrifice fly hit to center field.
Dakota Lee (Purvis) entered the game in relief midway through the fourth inning and kept the Lion lineup in check going forward.
It wasn't until the seventh inning that Pearl River (21-7; 9-3) finally broke through, plating a run on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Gabe Broadus (Wilmer, Ala.; Faith Academy).
The Wildcats added another run in the bottom of the eighth thanks to Alex Perry (McComb; North Pike). The third baseman battled out to a 2-2 count and then sent the fifth pitch of the at-bat over the right field wall and off the light pole to make the score 4-2.
PRCC couldn't complete the comeback attempt falling 4-2 in the contest.
Sam Hill (Soso; West Jones) was given the start and pitched three innings. He struck out six batters against seven hits, four earned runs and one walk.
Lee threw six shutout innings, allowing just two hits while striking out five Lion batters.
Broadus was the only Wildcat with multiple hits with two.
GAME TWO The Wildcats plated the first two runs of the contest in the bottom of the second inning. Ian Montz (Lafayette; Acadiana) led off with an opposite-field double and advanced to third on a D.K. Donaldson (Gulfport; West Harrison) single. Taylor Woodcock (Pass Christian; West Harrison) brought him home with a ground ball to second base. Bell (Mobile, Ala.; Faith Academy) then put a ball into play and reached on an error to drive in another run and make the score 2-0.
The Lions cut the deficit to one run at 2-1 in the top of the third, scoring on a sacrifice fly to deep center field.
A few innings passed without either team creating any offense before EMCC squared things up at 3-3 in the sixth inning. The Lions opened the inning with a single before a two-run homer tied the contest.
The Wildcats nearly took the game in the seventh inning, leading off the inning with a Woodcock single. Bell then bunted to advance him to second base. He eventually advanced to third but was unable to score, sending the game to extra innings.
The Wildcats finally put the game to an end in the ninth inning. Donaldson started the inning off with a single. Woodcock then walked on four straight pitches. Bell took the first pitch of the at-bat for a called strike. The next pitch hit Bell in the helmet, but the pitch was called a strike due to him not pulling back the bunt attempt in time. After taking a ball and fouling off another, Bell chopped a ball and the Lions pitcher made a great stop but fired the ball into center field and allowed the run to score for a 4-3 win.
John Griffin Bell (Mobile, Ala.; Faith Academy) chops a ball up the middle, allowing the winning run to score in a 4-3 victory over East Mississippi. Saturday's doubleheader was the first for Bell since Feb. 11. (Richard Gleber/PRCC Athletics)
"It felt great to be back on the field with my guys," Bell said. "I'm happy to be able to contribute. It was great to be back out there."
Cole Tolbert (Laurel; West Jones) made his first start of the season and gave the Wildcats the energy boost that they needed. The right-hander pitched 4 1/3 innings of two-hit, one-run baseball. He walked just two batters and struck out seven.
"We used to do this with Landon Harper (Lauderdale; Northeast Lauderdale) when we needed an energy start," pitching coach Brandon Pennington said.
"We decided to go with it and he really gave us that energy boost. I can't say enough about Cole. He's going to compete and we know he's going to do that every time he goes out there."
Bobby Magee (Petal) pitched 2/3 of an inning, allowing two hits and two runs while striking out a batter.
Landen Payne (Ocean Springs; St. Martin) took over on the mound in the sixth inning and was nearly unhittable. The freshman pitched three innings, striking out eight of the 10 batters that he faced. He allowed just one hit. Blake Hooks (Petal) threw the last inning of the day, striking out two against one hit.
Perry, Montz, Donaldson and Woodcock all tallied a pair of hits.
UP NEXT Pearl River hits the road Wednesday for a doubleheader against Copiah-Lincoln. The games are set to get underway at 3 p.m. and will be livestreamed at CoLinAthletics.com/watch.