POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Pearl River team has been playing playoff softball unofficially for several weeks. On Sunday, the Lady Wildcats guaranteed they'll be playing official playoff games next week when they swept Coahoma 9-1 in six innings and 14-0 in five innings.
With the sweep, PRCC (25-19 overall, 15-13 MACJC) tied Meridian for eighth in the MACJC standings but thanks to a sweep earlier in the season the Lady Wildcats grab the final playoff spot.
"We started off a little slow but it was a wakeup call for them early. We settled in, figured it out, put the runs up and finally figured it out in the first game. In the second game, we just came out and took it over," Pearl River coach Leigh White said. "I told them in between games that there was one game in between keeping us from where we want to go this year. They locked in, got out here and did what we're supposed to do."
With the sweep, PRCC will face regular season champion Jones College at 5 p.m. Wednesday to open the MACJC playoffs. JC is hosting the double-elimination tournament at Community Bank Park/Gwen Magee Field.
"I told them (post-game) they were great team wins today. It doesn't matter how you get in as long as you get in. Anything can happen and everybody is 0-0 now," White said. "I know we face Jones to start it off, but we're not looking at what it says on anyone's jersey. We're going in with some fight and we're going to compete."
GAME 1: PRCC 9, CCC 1 (6 inn.)
Pearl River actually had a rough start in Game 1 as CCC (2-34, 0-28) opened the scoring by capitalizing on an the combination of an error, stolen base, a couple walks and a passed ball. PRCC's starters Grace Stringer (Moselle; South Jones) and Gracie Barnett (Vancleave) buckled down from that point on, however, to combine for a no-hitter.
Stringer allowed one unearned run on four walks in two innings before turning the game over to Barnett. The former VHS standout struck out three against one walk in four innings.
"Grace worked in and out of trouble a bit, but we called Gracie in and she had (Stringer's) back," White said. "Gracie was great and ready to go."
It didn't take long for PRCC to take over the lead for good. The Lady Wildcats jumped ahead 2-1 in the first thanks to a two-run single from Dallas Blaker (Bay St. Louis; Our Lady Academy).
An RBI double from Mary Grace Turner coupled with a run-scoring groundout in the third pushed PRCC's lead to 4-1.
Pearl River broke the game open in the fifth when Elizabeth Taggard (Picayune) singled down the first base line to score Brooke Fagan (Kiln; Hancock) and Turner tagged her 16th homer of the year — a two-run homer — to extend PRCC's lead to 7-1.
PRCC finished off CCC in the sixth on RBI doubles from Taggard and Turner.
Turner led PRCC with a 4-for-4 performance that included three RBIs. Fagan was second on the team, going 3-for-3 with a walk and four runs scored.
GAME 2: PRCC 14, CCC 0 (5 inn.)
Pearl River blew open Game 2 early.
Turner singled home Taggard in the first inning and then the Lady Wildcats plated eight runs in the second to build an insurmountable lead.
Hannah Rasberry (Lucedale; George County) opened the inning with a bases-loaded walk. After Fagan singled in two runs with a hit through the left side, Taggard, Turner and Jenna Comeaux (Lafayette, La.; Comeaux) hit back-to-back-to-back homers to extend PRCC's lead to 9-0.
"That was a lot of fun," White said. "Taggard absolutely smashed it and then I figured M.G. wasn't going to get out done by E.T. and was going to hit one out and sure thing she did.
"And then Comeaux gets up and hits one oppo. and I couldn't help but think that's pretty sweet right there.
"Those kids can hit and are hard to pitch to."
Taggard hit a two-run homer in the third inning to give Pearl River an 11-0 advantage.
Ashley Terwilliger (Saucier; Harrison Central) and Jordan Lee (Redwood; Tri-County) both singled in runs and Jenna Smith (D'Iberville) walked with the bases loaded in the fourth to give Pearl River a decisive 14-0 lead.
Taggard led PRCC at the plate, going 3-for-3 with five RBIs and three runs scored. Alyssa Pinero (Picayune) also went 2-for-2.
Rylee Swilley (Kiln; Hancock) opened the game in the circle for Pearl River before giving way to Brianna Hargrove (Oakdale, La,). The two combined to strike out three on two hits in five scoreless innings.