No. 3 Pearl River blanks Baton Rouge in sweep
Dylan Dunaway - PRCC Sports Information Director
POPLARVILLE, Miss. — The No. 3 Pearl River baseball team's return to Dub Herring Park was a great one Friday afternoon as the Wildcats earned a sweep over Baton Rouge, defeating the Bears 10-0 in eight innings in the opener and winning 3-0 in the nightcap.
"Every time you play Baton Rouge, they're going to play hard and get after you," head coach Michael Avalon said. "That's just what they do — they don't lay down. I thought we took care of business in game one, but we came out sloppy in game two. I was proud of our guys for getting the job done."
Caleb Dyess (Carriere; Pearl River Central) delivered a scoreless top of the first inning in his first collegiate start to send the Wildcats to the plate for the first time.
In what proved to be an early showing of the big day he was about to have, Hollis Porter (Hurley; East Central) got the Wildcats off to a hot start. The sweet-swinging lefty stepped received an inside fastball and used an inside-out swing to send it flying over straight away center field for a solo homer and a 1-0 lead. Jeff Ince (Brandon; Jackson Prep) was responsible for PRCC's next run of the frame after singling and coming around to score on a balk by the Bear pitcher, 2-0.
The 6-foot-4 Porter wasn't done after his first-inning homer, putting some excitement into the Pearl River dugout in the third inning. He worked a quick 1-1 count before turning on a hanging curveball and sending it flying over the right field wall for his second homer of the day and fourth of the season.
Dyess continued to put up zeros for the Wildcats in the fourth and fifth innings before handing the ball off to Austin Tommasini (Madison; Madison Central) for the sixth inning.
PRCC's offense added a five-spot in the sixth inning of the game. Marshall Phillips (Hattiesburg; Sumrall) was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to score the first run, and Keegan Giger (Petal) brought around the next with a sacrifice fly into right field. Caston Thompson (Jayess; Brookhaven) earned an infield single and eventually scored on a Baton Rouge wild pitch. The final blow of the frame was provided by Bryce Fowler (Madison; Germantown), who smoked a two-run single into right field, 8-0.
Pearl River ended the contest in the bottom of the eighth. JP Robertson (Madison; Germantown) and Giger picked up singles to begin the inning. Fowler brought Robertson around when he dropped a hit into center field that turned into a hustle double. The final run crossed when Creek Robertson (Oxford; Madison Central) perfectly placed an infield single for an RBI, 10-0.
Dyess was fantastic in his first start of the year, tossing five innings and scattering five hits and three walks. He struck out four batters.
"He wasn't sharp, but if you aren't sharp and you don't give up any runs, then we will take that any day," Avalon said. "He made some big pitches when he needed to."
Tommasini finished with one shutout inning and one strikeout. Eli Waters threw 1 2/3 innings, allowing one hit and two walks while striking out four. Dylan Wallace (Columbia) recorded one out.
Fowler finished with a game-high three hits and three RBIs. Porter went 2-for-3 with two homers and two RBIs. Ince, Thompson and Giger all had two hits.
The Wildcat offense had to work a little bit more in game two, but thankfully, Thomas Crabtree (Collierville, Tenn.) had his stuff working on the mound. The 6-foot-4 right-hander allowed one hit in the first inning of play, then proceeded not to allow a hit over the next four frames while scattering two walks to keep the Bears out of the run column.
Crabtree's dominance was rewarded in the bottom of the fifth inning — and who better to get it done than the slugger Porter. Fowler was hit by a pitch to reach first base, and Porter followed by roping a ball down the right field line that bounced into the corner of Dub Herring Park. The first baseman never checked up and rumbled into third base with a massive RBI triple, breaking the deadlock and giving the Wildcats a 1-0 advantage.
"His homers were big, but neither were bigger than the triple he hit in a 0-0 ball game," Avalon said. "It happened with two strikes against a lefty, too. He's worked hard on facing left-handed pitching, and he's feeling a lot more comfortable. He's turning into a special player for us."
It wasn't a one-run ball game for long as Ince stepped to the plate and demolished a two-run homer that dropped just in front of the videoboard in left centerfield to pad the lead, 3-0.
Crabtree delivered another stellar inning in the top of the sixth, but it wouldn't have happened without Ince's glove. The second baseman ranged to his right, dove to snag a ball up the middle and fired to first for the out. Following a Bears walk, Ince flashed the leather once more. He left his feet up the middle, flipped the ball to Creek Robertson, who barehanded the ball and fired a relay to first base. Porter was smooth with the glove on the receiving end, scooping the ball off the turf to end the inning.
Carson Fair (Southaven) earned the save opportunity and looked to be in some trouble after walking the first two batters he faced. He recovered nicely, though, striking out the next two batters before inducing a game-ending groundout, 3-0.
Crabtree went six innings, allowing just one hit and three walks. He struck out eight batters. Fair pitched one inning, struck out two and walked two.
"I had to lock in early this morning," Crabtree said. "I came out and did what I know to do, which is attack the hitters. It took me two games to find it, but I've finally found my breaking ball."
Porter went 2-for-3 with an RBI, a run scored and a triple. Ince finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a long ball.
Pearl River is set to hit the road on Sunday to take on the Bears in Baton Rouge. The doubleheader is scheduled to begin at noon.