POPLARVILLE, Miss. — No. 8 Pearl River put on a hitting clinic against visiting Baton Rouge on Tuesday night at Dub Herring Park. The Wildcats swept the series, picking up run-rule shortened wins of 11-1 in seven innings and 18-3 in five innings.
"I thought today for sure was our best offensive day of the year. We swung the bats well, took what they gave us and didn't strike out much," Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said. "That's one of the things we talk to the guys about; We're strong and we're physical and we're going to have good results if we limit the strikeouts."
GAME 1: PRCC 11, BRCC 1 (7 inn.)
Pearl River (9-1 overall) blasted its way to a Game 1 victory as round trippers accounted for eight of the Wildcats' 11 runs.
Austen Izzio (Carriere; Pearl River Central) hit a three-run homer in the second, Wiley Cleland (Columbia; Columbia Academy) slugged a two-run home run later in the inning and Matt Taylor hit a three-run shot in the fifth to account for six of the team's runs.
Cleland opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the first. Taylor grounded into a fielder's choice in the second to double PRCC's lead to 2-0. A Shemar Page (Raleigh) sac fly in the sixth scored Cameron Havard (Columbia; Columbia Academy) to cap the game's scoring.
Izzio and Cleland led PRCC with two hits. Taylor led the Wildcats with four RBIs.
Starter Reece Ewing (Mobile, Ala.; Faith Academy) continued to be effectively wild. The freshman took a no hitter into the fourth. He ended up allowing one unearned run in 3 2/3 innings, striking out six against three walks and two hits.
"I thought Reece, like he always does, had really good stuff," Avalon said. "He was in a tough environment with the weather and rain and needs to learn to handle that better, but if he'll figure out how to command the zone his stuff is as good as anybody's in the league.
"He's going to throw some big innings for us."
GAME 2: PRCC 18, BRCC 3 (5 inn.)
The second game was a lot like the first as PRCC scored 18 runs on 14 hits and only struck out three times.
"I thought the arm in Game 2 was a very good junior college arm," Avalon said. "He had a little success against us in the first inning but I was proud of the adjustments we made. We had a lot of hits to the opposite field, which is something we preach."
Ewing led PRCC at the dish, going 3-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs scored. Taylor, Izzio, and Cleland also had three hits. Jordan was second on the team with three RBIs. Luke Harper (Meridian; Northeast Lauderdale) walked three times.
Not to be lost in the offensive outpouring vs BRCC (5-15) was the job of PRCC's pitchers. Colin Danley (Lucedale; East Central) allowed one run on two walks and one hit, striking out two in three innings. Jerod Meggs (Kosciusko) pitched a scoreless fourth, striking out two, before Trace McNabb (Foxworth; West Marion) closed the game out.
"You're starting to see Danley grow a little bit as a pitcher," Avalon said of Danley, who was moved from the bullpen to the fourth starter's spot at the start of the season. "We knew he was capable of this and we had some other guys step up in the back end, which has allowed him to take over that starting role. So far it's been good for him. It's comforting to see him find his own as a starter."
PITCHER OF THE WEEK — AGAIN
For the second week in a row the MACJC's Pitcher of the Week wears maroon and gold. The league announced Tuesday that PRCC sophomore Miles Smith (Laurel; Northeast Jones) was named the MACJC's top pitcher. Smith struck out seven and allowed one unearned run in 5 1/3 innings over the weekend as PRCC topped Coastal Alabama-South 2-1. Smith's honor comes one week after Page was named the MACJC and NJCAA Division-II Pitcher of the Week.
CLIMBING THE POLLS
The Wildcats have climbed into Perfect Game's JUCO Top 25. After landing at No. 26 in the publication's preseason rankings, PRCC jumped four spots to No. 22 in the first ranking of the season. Pearl River is the only Mississippi school in the Top 25.
DID YOU PLAY BASEBALL AT PRCC?
Avalon recently announced the creation of the program's Alumni Day. The inaugural event will be held before the April 27 doubleheader against Coahoma and will consist of a brunch, home run derby, crawfish lunch and more. The cost for former Wildcat baseball players is $25. Alumni can register by visiting PRCCBaseballCamps.com.
Any alumni who has not already filled out our Wildcat questionnaire is asked to do so by visiting prccathletics.com/sports/bsb/AlumniForm.
The Wildcats are back at The Dub on Sunday when they host Illinois Central for a noon doubleheader.