No. 1 PRCC knocks off defending national champs, claims Region 23 title
Dylan Dunaway - PRCC Sports Information Director
POPLARVILLE, Miss. — The magic still runs through the mustards. Just a few weeks since taking the MACCC Championship wearing the gold pants and jerseys, the Wildcats took the field in them once again Thursday and dominated reigning National Champion and No. 4 ranked LSU Eunice 11-4 to capture the Region 23 Championship. The victory sealed PRCC's second berth in the NJCAA DII World Series in three opportunities.
The World Series will take place May 28 through June 4 at Memorial Ballpark in Enid, Oklahoma.
Head Coach Michael Avalon (center) gets the 'cold water' championship splash.
"These guys had the bullseye all year. Even today I think we had it on us, and we handled it from the very first pitch to the last," said PRCC head coach and newly crowned MACCC Coach of the Year Michael Avalon said. "They met every challenge from pitch one. I just can't say enough about them. I knew this morning that they were ready. These are some great kids and they're winners. I'm very proud to be their coach.
"We know that our next challenge will not be easy. We don't say that lightly. This program is here to take that next step and I think they're up for the challenge."
HOW IT HAPPENED
One day shy of a year since his remarkable relief outing against LSU Eunice (40-17 overall) when he pitched six innings, striking out 10 batters against one hit, right-hander Sam Hill (Soso; West Jones) did it again. Over six innings, Hill scattered five hits, three walks and two runs while striking out seven against the reigning National Champions.
"How about Sam Hill?" Avalon said. "That's two times that he's thrown really, really good against them in some really big games."
"Man, this is special. This is for all the former players and our fans," Hill said. "That's what makes this place special. Any of these guys could do anything that they could to win this thing. The biggest thing for me is not overthrowing the baseball and trying to mix my pitches. That's what made me successful. This is more than a team, it's a brotherhood. This is a special team."
Hill made quick work of the Bengals in the first inning of play to send the Wildcats (40-10) to the plate. That's when the madness ensued. John Griffin Bell (Mobile, Ala.; Faith Academy) was hit by a pitch to open things up and then stole second. Tate Parker (Gulfport; West Harrison) followed things up by catching a ball off the end of the bat that fell in right field, allowing Bell to move to third.
That's when arguably the player of the Region 23 Tournament, Alex Perry (McComb; North Pike) stepped to the dish and hammered his third home run in the last four games. The three-run bomb put the Wildcats ahead 3-0. Ian Montz (Lafayette, La.; Acadiana) made it back-to-back home runs three pitches later, rocketing a solo shot over the short porch in right field. After D.K. Donaldson (Gulfport; West Harrison) made it to first base on an error, Logan Walters (Petal) made the Bengals pay by belting a two-run shot deep over the left field wall for a 6-0 lead.
PRCC made it a 7-0 ballgame in the bottom of the second inning. Bell was hit by a pitch to open things up and advanced to second on a Perry single. Montz went the opposite way moments later for an RBI single.
In the third inning, LSU Eunice cut the deficit to six runs at 7-1.
Parker became the Pearl River home run king in the fourth inning. The center fielder stepped to the plate and drove the very first pitch that he saw over the left field wall for his 34th homer in the maroon-and-gold. The blast pushed the Wildcat lead out to 8-1.
PRCC extended the lead out to 9-1 in the fifth inning of the day. Taylor Woodcock (Pass Christian; West Harrison) drew a walk and stole second base. Gabe Broadus (Wilmer, Ala.; Faith Academy) promptly smacked a ball into center field to bring him home.
The Bengals grabbed a run back in the top half of the sixth, but Matt Mercer (Richton; Petal) matched it with an RBI single. The run made the Pearl River lead 10-2.
LSUE added a pair of runs in the top of the seventh to make the score 10-4, but Perry's fourth hit of the contest pushed the lead back out to 11-4 in the bottom of the frame.
Will Passeau (Mobile, Ala.; St. Paul's) closed things out quickly in the top of the ninth inning, using just 11 pitches to retire the side in order and send the Wildcat dugout sprinting to the field for a dogpile.
The Wildcats had a day at the plate, finishing the night with 18 hits and 11 runs.
Parker finished the day 4-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored. Perry also went 4-for-5, finishing with four RBIs and a run scored. Bell, Montz, Donaldson and Walters all finished with multiple hits.
Passeau finished with three innings pitched, scattering three hits, two runs and one walk while striking out two batters.
THE HOME RUN KING
Parker has had an incredible career in the maroon-and-gold. After blasting 18 home runs a season ago, the center fielder hit his 16th homer of the 2022 season to give him 34 career home runs, passing former Wildcat slugger Simon "Meaux" Landry for first on the Pearl River career leaderboard.
"It's truly an honor to break that record," Parker said. "Meaux Landry held the record and he's one heck of a player. It was a hard record to break. Winning this championship with my teammates was incredible. There's no feeling like it. I'm proud to be a Wildcat."
CEREMONIAL FIRST PITCH
Prior to game time, Pearl River Community College was pleased to have President Emeritus Dr. William Lewis at Dub Herring Park to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Dr. Lewis served PRCC for 17 years as the school's president.