Wildcats move into first place with sweep over Gulf Coast

By STAN CALDWELL,

POPLARVILLE – Pearl River Community College put together a couple of efforts suitable for framing Tuesday against Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The 18th-ranked Wildcats moved into sole possession of first place in the MACJC baseball standings by sweeping a doubleheader from No. 20 Gulf Coast with a pair of 6-2 triumphs.

PRCC (20-4 overall, 6-0 conference) took over first place after East Central suffered its first conference loss of the season in a doubleheader split at Jones County. MGCCC dropped to 20-6 and 4-4.

Sophomore Camden Dusang (Carriere) struck out nine batters to pace the Wildcats in the opener, and sophomore Simon Landry (Ponchatoula, La.) smacked his ninth home run of the season to cap the Wildcats’ offense in the second game.

 “I though the first game was the most complete game we’ve played all season, in every phase of the game,” said PRCC coach Michael Avalon.

 “I told the guys, when you look at the scoreboard and we had more runs, we had more hits and we made fewer errors. When you do that, you’re going to win.”

The Bulldogs struck first in Game 1, scoring a run in the top of the third inning, and had the bases loaded with none out. But Dusang got two strikeouts and a flyout to centerfield to keep the damage to a minimum.

And his teammates immediately got the run back in the bottom of the third when freshman Magruder O’Bannon (Long Beach) hit a 2-0 pitch over the leftfield fence for a leadoff home run, his first of the season.

The Wildcats took the lead for good in the fourth, when freshman Noah Barron (Hoover, Ala.) led off with a single and took third on a double by redshirt freshman Matt Taylor (Raleigh).

Freshman Wiley Cleland (Columbia) drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly, with Taylor taking third. Taylor scored on an alert base-running play, turning a pickoff into a steal of home, after O’Bannon had walked.

Gulf Coast made it 3-2 in the fifth, but the Wildcats scored twice in the seventh, on Barron’s RBI double, and tacked on another run in the eighth on a single by sophomore Scooter Ginn (Columbia).

Dusang (5-0) gave up six hits and walked three in six innings. Freshman Colin Danley (Lucedale) and sophomore Colby White (Foxworth) continued the strong play of the Wildcat bullpen with three hitless, scoreless innings.

Danley struck out two in two innings and White fanned two in the ninth.

 “Camden Dusang has been kind of an unsung hero for us,” said Avalon. “He’s allowed us to move Colby back to the bullpen, and just given us inning after inning of effective work.”

The second game wasn’t quite as picture-perfect as the first, as the Wildcats committed two errors that allowed Gulf Coast to score both of its runs in the top of the third off Wildcat freshman Miles Smith (Laurel).

But by then, the Wildcats already had three runs in the book, scoring two in the first with just one hit, Cleland’s two-out, two-run single, after two walks and a hit batter loaded the bases.

Ginn made it 3-0 in the second, reaching on a walk, taking second on a botched pickoff play, moving to third on a wild pitch and scoring on another bad pickoff throw.

Cleland scored in the bottom of the third, with a two-out double and a run-scoring single by freshman Luke Harper (Meridian). Landry made it 6-2 in the fourth after redshirt sophomore Bryson Medious singled with two out.

 “It’s Gulf Coast and Pearl River,” Avalon said. “That second game, I think it took everyone a minute to get their bearings straight. But once we did, you saw our guys complete.”

Smith (4-1) struck out seven batters and allowed just two hits in 4 2/3 innings. Sophomore left-hander Luke Bradley (Pass Christian) gave up one hit and struck out two in 1 1/3 innings, and freshman Jerod Meggs (Kosciusko) worked around a pair of singles in the seventh.

It doesn’t get any easier for the Wildcats, as they host second-ranked Itawamba Friday in a 2 p.m. doubleheader, then travel to No. 17 East Central next Wednesday.

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