POPLARVILLE – Pearl River Community College kept its hopes for a state championship alive Wednesday, sweeping Copiah-Lincoln in an MACJC doubleheader.
The Wildcats came from behind to win the opener 8-3, then used a seven-run second inning to build a lead and cruised to a 9-4 win in the nightcap, in the final regular-season home series at Dub Herring Park.
Seventh-ranked Pearl River (35-9) are currently in second place in the MACJC standings at 21-5, one game behind league-leading Jones County.
To win the state title and a bye through the first round of the playoffs, PRCC must sweep its season-ending doubleheader Saturday at Coahoma and Jones must lose both games of its doubleheader Saturday at third-place Meridian.
“We challenged our kids after the Jones games to just find a way to win these last few ball games and see what happens,” said Wildcat coach Michael Avalon. “They’ve responded well to the challenge.”
The Wildcats spotted the Wolves a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning, scoring two unearned runs off a pair of errors.
PRCC got a run back in the bottom of the fourth without a hit.
Sophomore Bryson Medious (Columbia) drew a walk to lead off the inning, sophomore Derek Eberly (Blountstown, Fla.) was hit by a pitch, both runners moved up on a passed ball and Medious scored on a sacrifice fly by freshman Noah Barron (Hoover, Ala.).
Co-Lin got that run back immediately on a leadoff home run in the fifth to take a 3-1 lead, but sophomore right-hander Camden Dusang (Carriere) was brilliant the rest of the way, retiring 15 of the last 17 batters he faced.
The Wildcats tied the game in the fifth, as their offense finally got going. With one out, sophomore Scooter Ginn (Columbia) smacked a double just inside the bag at third base for PRCC’s first hit of the game.
Ginn went to third on a wild pitch and scored when the throw to the bag skipped into left field. Freshman Magruder O’Bannon (Long Beach) followed with a triple and he scored the tying run on an alert bit of baserunning, dashing home after a dropped third strike.
Pearl River took the lead and broke the game open in the sixth, scoring four runs.
Medious led off with a walk, two wild pitches got him to third and he scored on a single by Eberly. Sophomore Simon Landry (Ponchatoula, La.) followed with a two-run home run to leftfield.
Barron singled and was forced out at second on a fielder’s choice off the bat of freshman Shemar Page (Raleigh). Ginn singled and freshman Luke Harper (Meridian) singled on a bunt to third base, allowing Page to race home.
The Wildcats added another run in the eighth when Page drew a leadoff walk. Pinch-runner Kevin Carter went to third on a pair of wild pitches and scored on a double steal after Ginn was hit by a pitch.
Dusang (7-1) allowed five hits, struck out 10 and walked three and went the distance, recording the Wildcats’ first complete game of the season.
Pearl River got all of the runs it would need in the second, all with two out. Ginn drew a walk and went to second when O’Bannon was hit by a pitch. Harper loaded the bases with a walk and a run scored on a single by freshman Matt Taylor (Raleigh).
Medious drove in two runs with a single and Eberly walked to load the bases again and Landry followed with a mammoth homer to centerfield, his 19th of the season, breaking the Wildcats’ single-season record for home runs, previously held by PRCC assistant coach Rhyne Hughes.
The Wildcats added two more runs in the fourth, when Ginn singled, stole second and scored on a double by Harper, who scored from second on a wild pitch.
Freshman Miles Smith (Laurel) threw five shutout innings, allowing just three hits and walking none, improving his record to 7-1.
The defense helped Smith in the fourth, when Medious and Harper teamed up to throw out a runner at the plate trying to score from first base on a two-out double to leftfield.
The Wolves scored all four of their runs in the seventh on just one hit, helped by four hit batters a walk and an error. However, sophomore Luke Bradley (Pass Christian) got the final out on a strikeout with the bases loaded.
Pearl River finishes the regular season at noon Saturday at Coahoma. If the Wildcats do not finish first in the conference, they will host a best-of-three first-round playoff series, scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
“It’s going to come down to the last day of the season, and that’s just the way it is in our conference,” said Avalon.