POPLARVILLE, Miss.— It was not pretty and it did not come easy but the No. 7 Pearl River baseball team showed grit Wednesday night when they split with East Central, losing 8-2 and winning 2-1 in extra innings.
Although the Wildcats struggled in the opener, the second game saw them dig deep and pull off a thrilling win at Dub Herring Park.
"I'm just proud of our guys. We fought back and won the second game. After Game 1, that was the lowest we've been all year," PRCC coach Michael Avalon said. "It's obvious this team has a lot of talent but when they start figuring out to play for the guy to their left and the guy to their right, we're going to be a really good ballclub."
GAME 1: ECCC 8, PRCC 2
The Wildcats (23-8 overall, 8-6 MACJC) never quite got the offense going in Game 1 against the Warriors (17-13 overall, 10-6 MACJC).
East Central struck first in the top of the second inning taking a 1-0 lead.
The Warriors did not take long to respond scoring two runs in the top of the fifth inning to take a 3-1 lead.
The seventh inning broke the game open for the Warriors as they scored four runs to increase their lead to 7-1.
East Central tacked on another run in the top of the eighth to extend their lead to seven.
The Wildcats plated their last run in the bottom of the eighth when Noah Barron (Hoover, Ala.) hit a solo shot past the left field wall to give the Wildcats their second run of the game.
"I don't really have much to say about the first game," Avalon said. "Let's call it like it is and that's that we didn't play very well. We had our chances. We had a play where we made three errors and it took us out of it."
Lingle and Barron both led the team in hits with two each.
Both of Lingle's hits were doubles.
Reid Reynolds (Heidelberg; Northeast Jones) started the game for PRCC.
GAME 2: PRCC 2, ECCC 1 (8 inn.)
The second game of the doubleheader saw the Wildcats strike first.
Barron hit his second solo home run of the day in the bottom of the second inning to give PRCC a 1-0 lead.
East Central responded in the top of the fourth inning scoring on a double steal to tie the game 1-1.
A crucial moment in the contest saw Miles Smith (Laurel; Northeast Jones) get out of a bases loaded jam with two outs in the top of the seventh inning striking out his third batter of the inning.
"They brought a guy off the bench in that last at-bat and he hadn't seen my slider," Smith said. "I relied on that because I knew he hadn't had the time to adjust to it."
The game was decided in the bottom of the eighth inning when Donaldson hit a walk-off home run out of right field to secure the Wildcat victory 2-1.
"I missed the first fast ball in, and then the second ball was low and I just shortened up and let everything take care of itself," Donaldson said.
Donaldson led the team in hits with three, two of which were a double and a home run.
Smith picked up the win for the Wildcats, his fifth of the season.
He pitched the entire game, going eight innings, allowing three hits, two walks, and one run while striking out nine.
"I just had to take the team on my back," Smith said. "We needed this one real bad."
His head coach shared that sentiment.
"What can you say about Miles other than he made big pitch after big pitch," Avalon said. "He did what he had to do to keep us in this one. I'm proud of these guys for fighting back and getting a win here. That's the first one run game we've won."
The Wildcats recently announced plans to host the inaugural Alumni Day on April 27 prior to the team's 2 p.m. doubleheader against Coahoma at Dub Herring Park. Any former Wildcats who are interested in participating in the festivities — which include a brunch, home run derby, tour of new facilities, crawfish lunch and tickets to the games — are asked to register at PRCCBaseballCamps.com.
ARTIGUES FAMILY CLUBHOUSE
Prior to the Coahoma doubleheader PRCC will dedicate the team's clubhouse to the Artigues family, naming the facility the Artigues Family Clubhouse. The tribute honors Ronnie Artigues, who was a member of the school's 1961 National Championship in football and active PRCC supporter, and his son Jay Artigues, who was a standout baseball player at PRCC and later coached the Wildcats to the JUCO World Series.
The Wildcats head back on the road Friday when they take on East Mississippi in a doubleheader. First pitch is set for 2 p.m. The road trip continues when they head to Summit Tuesday to take on Southwest in a doubleheader scheduled to start at 3 p.m. The Wildcats finally return home next Friday when they take on Holmes in a doubleheader at "The Dub", first pitch is set for 2 p.m.