POPLARVILLE, Miss. — No. 6 Pearl River only surrendered one run Thursday at Dub Herring Park, however the East Central Warriors did one better, shutting out the host Wildcats 1-0 to force a decisive Game 3.
The Warriors and Wildcats will clash at 4 p.m. Friday at The Dub with the winner advancing to next week's Region XXIII Tournament in Fulton.
"In my opinion that's what you call a tough luck loss," Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said. "A lot of credit to East Central. They battled and fought and clawed and scratched the scoreboard and that was enough. We just have to do a better job in individual at-bats and understanding the importance of each at-bat in playoff baseball.
"The bottom line is we have to come out tomorrow ready to play."
The Warriors (23-22 overall) threatened in the sixth with a runner on third but starter Shemar Page (Raleigh) got a big strikeout to eliminate the threat and keep the scoreless tie.
In the top of the eighth with a runner on third and two outs, Pearl River turned to Jerod Meggs (Kosciusko). After intentionally walking a batter and plunking another, Meggs induced a comebacker and tossed the ball to first to get out of the jam and leave the bases loaded.
The Warriors ultimately broke through in the ninth, capitalizing on an errant throw to third to score the game's lone run.
Rain had steadily increased to that point — and the game was momentarily halted shortly after the error but the damage had been done. ECCC attempted to pile on from there but Meggs fanned two straight batters to keep PRCC (35-12) within one.
ECCC retired the Wildcats in order in the bottom of the ninth, however, to force a winner-take-all Game 3.
Page had a no decision, allowing six hits and one walk while also striking out six in 7 2/3. Meggs struck out two in his 1 1/3 innings of work but allowed the one run to earn the tough luck loss.
"I thought Shemar does what Shemar does and pitched like a No. 1 for us today," Avalon said. "A lot of credit to him; he made a lot of pitches in tough conditions."
PRCC had three hits as a team; Dexter Jordan (Hattiesburg) and Noah Barron (Hoover, Ala.) both singled, while Luke Harper (Meridian; Northeast Lauderdale) hit a double — one of only two extra-base hits in the game.