POPLARVILLE, Miss. — No. 7 Pearl River scored early and often in Sunday's relocated doubleheader against East Mississippi at Dub Herring Park. After claiming an 18-12 victory in Game 1, starter Colin Danley (Lucedale; East Central) spun a gem as the Wildcats cruised to a 13-1 victory in Game 2.
"I thought we had a good day overall," Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said. "Again, we can do a little better of a job scoring runners but when you score 31 runs you can't be too picky there."
Game 1: PRCC 18, EMCC 12
After East Mississippi tied the game 1-1 on a solo homer in the bottom of the second Pearl River (25-8 overall, 10-6 MACJC) broke the game open in the second, sending 11 to bat. Back to back homers from Dexter Jordan (Hattiesburg) and Reece Ewing (Mobile, Ala.; Faith Academy) jumpstarted the seven-run inning. A successful squeeze from Taylor scored Reis Trager (Hurley; East Central) to push PRCC's lead to 4-1. Donaldson punched a one-out single to center, plating two runs. The Wildcats tacked on two more runs on an infield single from Noah Barron (Hoover, Ala.) and a Jordan grounder.
East Mississippi (6-22, 3-12) got a run back in the bottom of the second on a groundout.
Ewing laced a double into the right field corner in the fourth, adding two more runs to PRCC's lead. He then scored from second on a Trager single to shallow center field, giving the Wildcats an 11-2 lead.
EMCC took a chunk out of the PRCC advantage in the fifth with a four-run frame.
It looked like the Lions might narrow PRCC's advantage further in the sixth after the first two Lions were plunked, but after a big strikeout from Reid Golemon (Moselle; South Jones) Austen Izzio (Carriere; Pearl River Central) turned a 5-3 double play to end the threat and effectively put a zero on the scoreboard.
Pearl River tacked on single runs in the seventh and eighth on a wild pitch and Wiley Cleland (Columbia; Columbia Academy) grounder to extend PRCC's advantage to 13-6.
Undeterred, the Lions plated six runs in the bottom of the eighth to make the game interesting late.
Pearl River responded with a five-run ninth to jump back ahead 18-12. Ewing gave the Wildcats some breathing room in the top of the frame, blasting his second homer of the day between the right field wall and scoreboard. Trager beat a throw home on a Taylor grounder and then an Izzio single that tight rope walked the foul line allowed Luke Harper (Meridian; Northeast Lauderdale) to score PRCC's third run of the frame. A Cleland sac fly and Barron single tacked on two more runs.
"When you got to the ballpark this morning and saw how the flags were moving, you knew runs were going to be scored," said Avalon, who gathered his players for an impromptu pep talk before they went to bat in the ninth. "As a coach you also know if you don't put a team away when you have the chance to it's going to get sticky in the end and that's what happened.
"I was proud of the fact we were up a run and then for us to respond and put up five runs in the ninth, that was big."
Every Wildcat starter reached base safely at least twice. Izzio and Ewing led the Wildcats with three hits apiece. Taylor, Cleland, Donaldson, Barron, Jordan and Trager all had two hits. Harper walked three times. Ewing had a team-high four RBIs. Donaldson added three, with Taylor, Cleland, Barron and Jordan all driving in two runs each.
Avalon singled out Ewing's 3-for-5 performance following the game.
"After not playing this past Wednesday against East Central, I challenged him to work more, to work harder, to commit more and you saw how he responded," Avalon said. "That kid is extremely talented. He's capable of playing some really good baseball. The big thing with him is just understanding that at this level you have to work, push yourself and continue to compete because that kid has a lot of ability."
Shemar Page (Raleigh) earned the win, striking out seven over 4 2/3 innings. The Louisiana Tech signee allowed six runs on seven hits and two walks. Golemon pitched 1 1/3 scoreless frames. Trace McNabb (Foxworth; West Marion) threw an inning before turning the game over to Jerod Meggs (Kosciusko) for the final two innings.
Game 2: PRCC 13, EMCC 1
Izzio opened the scoring as he tripled to right field and then raced home when the Lions overthrew third.
Doubles from Page and Taylor tacked on two more runs in the third.
Jordan belted a two-run homer just to the left of the batter's eye in center field in the third to give the Wildcats a 5-0 lead.
EMCC broke the shutout in the fourth on a single to right. The Lions tried to plate a second run on the hit, but a good throw home from Barron and a perfectly executed rundown between Magruder O'Bannon (Gulfport; St. Stanislaus) and Izzio gunned the runner down for the final out.
Donaldson scored PRCC's sixth run on a sacrifice fly in the fourth. PRCC then plated four more runs in the fifth on singles from Page, Taylor and Cleland.
In the sixth, Page belted a two-run triple and then easily scored on a deep O'Bannon fly.
Danley tossed his first complete game of the year, striking out seven without issuing a free pass. EMCC scored its lone run on just five hits.
"The thing he did was locate the fastball down in the zone. When he does that he's as good as anybody in this league. You're starting to see him mature a little bit and accept that starter's role and reach his potential, which is fun to watch," Avalon said. "There's no question he's definitely solidified his spot as third in our rotation. There are a lot of teams that would be lucky to have a guy like that in their third spot."
Even with the lopsided score early on, Danley said he just focused on O'Bannon calling pitches behind the plate — rather than the scoreboard's lights setting the dusk sky ablaze beyond his left shoulder.
"I don't really look at the runs," said Danley, who improved to 5-2 on the year. "I like to see them score runs but there's no room to relax because that's when you slip up and allow runs. That's one thing you can't do, relax. I just tried to look past it and continue to put up zeroes."
Page led PRCC at the plate with two doubles and a triple, also driving in four runs total. Jordan, Izzio and Taylor each finished Game 2 with two hits apiece. Taylor, Cleland and Jordan tallied two RBIs each. Ewing was 0-for-2 in the second game but walked twice and scored both times.
MOVED TO THE DUB
The series was originally scheduled to be played in Scooba but was moved to Dub Herring Park due to weather.
"I appreciate Coach (Brett) Kimbrel being willing to come down here and play. That's a class act. It's what needed to happen, obviously, because we don't need to get backed up with games but for them to come down and play here just shows what type of man he is. We definitely appreciate that."
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.
Pearl River will hit the road for the final time in 2019 regular season Tuesday with a trip to Summit to play Southwest in a 3 p.m. doubleheader. The Wildcats will close out the regular season with five straight series at The Dub, starting Friday with a 2 p.m. doubleheader against Holmes. The remainder of PRCC's regular season schedulefeatures Hinds on April 24, Coahoma, Jones College on April 30 and Northwest on May 3.