FULTON, Miss. — The No. 6 Pearl River Wildcats outlasted the No. 2 Itawamba Indians Friday night taking a 21-13 victory and advancing to Saturday's Region XXIII Tournament Championship Game.
"This game was championship baseball," PRCC coach Michael Avalon said. "We beat them for nine innings. Obviously it was not our cleanest game but that's something we are going to work on and adjust. I'm just proud of their fight and their toughness."
The Wildcats (39-12) did not wait long to get the scoring started plating five runs in the top of the first inning to stun the Indians.
Reece Ewing (Mobile, Ala.; Faith Academy) broke the inning open with a three-run homer to extend the Wildcat lead.
Kasey Donaldson (Gulfport; West Harrison) got in one last parting shot to end the inning with a solo home run to give the Wildcats the 5-0 lead.
Itawamba (47-7-1) immediately responded plating a run in the bottom of the first inning cutting the Wildcat lead to 5-1.
The Wildcats added to their lead in the top of the second inning when Matt Taylor (Raleigh) stole home on a passed ball to give the Wildcats a 6-1 lead.
The Indians cashed in on a couple of errors from PRCC in the bottom of the third inning to cut the lead to 6-5.
The Wildcats struck back in the top of the fourth inning plating three runs.
Ewing drove in a run with a single; Britt McKay (Wiggins; Ocean Springs) earned a bases-walk to score Jordan; and Luke Harper (Meridian; Northeast Lauderdale) plated a run with an RBI groundout to score Ewing and give the Wildcats a 9-5 lead
The Wildcats added to the lead in the top of the fifth when their bats exploded.
Jordan started the scoring with an RBI single; Ewing followed that up with an RBI single of his own; Harper batted in two-runs with a double and Taylor scored McKay on a sacrifice fly.
The Wildcats plated their last run of the inning when Harper stole home on a bizarre error.
After Wiley Cleland (Columbia; Columbia Academy) grounded out the ICC pitcher dropped the ball and took too much time recovering it, allowing Harper to steal home and make it a 16-5 game.
The Indians refused to go away, however, plating five runs in the bottom of the fifth to cut the lead to 16-10.
Ewing responded for the Wildcats in the top of the sixth with his second home run of the day —a solo shot to extend the Wildcat lead to 17-10.
ICC plated a run in the bottom of the sixth to cut the lead to 17-11.
Izzio batted in his first run of the day in the top of the seventh with an RBI single.
Cleland followed that up with a sac fly that plated a run.
Taylor scored the last run of the inning for the Wildcats stealing home on a wild pitch to give the Wildcats a 20-11 lead.
ICC plated two crucial runs in the bottom of the seventh to prevent an early run rule by the Wildcats and make it a 20-13 game.
The Wildcats plated one last insurance run in the top of the ninth inning when Deyton Lingle (Lake) hit a sacrifice fly to score Cleland and extend the lead to 21-13.
The Wildcats secured the win in the bottom of the ninth with a quick three up three down inning.
LIGHTING IT UP
Donaldson and Ewing led the team in hits with four each while Ewing led the team in RBIs with an eye opening six.
"Coming into the game I just wanted to have selfless at-bats," Ewing said. "I kept getting up in the count and I didn't miss my pitches. When they threw punches at us, we knew had to throw a bigger one back. We were not going away."
Jordan had three hits and two RBIs.
"Region tournaments are about making big plays and making big hits," Jordan said. "Throughout this tournament we have had to be tough and as a team we've done that so far."
Cleland, Izzio and Taylor had two hits as well.
Harper and McKay also had two RBIs.
FINDING THE ARMS
Shemar Page (Raleigh) got the start on the mound for the Wildcats
Page pitched 3 1/3 innings allowing four hits, six walks and one earned run while striking out three.
Wes Starr (Auburn, Ala.; Auburn) entered the game in the bottom of the fourth inning in relief for Page.
Starr was credited with the win tonight, his second of the season.
Starr pitched 1 1/3 innings allowing two hits, one walk and three earned runs while striking out two.
Evan Bynum (Soso; West Jones) and Reid Goleman (Moselle; South Jones) also saw time on the mound for the Wildcats.
Trenton Lee (Picayune) closed the game for Pearl River.
Lee entered the contest in the bottom of the eighth inning allowing zero hits, one walk and zero runs while striking out two.
"Trenton came in and got it done," Avalon said. "That kid has got passion and he has Pearl River running through his blood. I'm just really proud of him."
The Wildcats will take on the winner of the Itawamba vs LSU-Eunice game Saturday at 3 p.m. in Fulton.
With a win the Wildcats will secure a spot in the NJCAA World Series. Their first World Series berth since 2004.
The game will be live streamed at LetsGoICCTV.com.
Games will also be broadcast at WRJWRadio.com.
REGION 23 TOURNAMENT
Game 10: Pearl River vs. Game 9 winner, 3 p.m.
Game 11 (if necessary): Game 10 teams, 1 p.m.