Host Pearl River eliminated from MACJC Tournament via ECCC, NWCC setbacks

            POPLARVILLE — Eighth-ranked Pearl River’s hopes of its first state championship in nearly a decade vanished here Saturday as East Central and Northwest Mississippi pulled off a pair of back-to-back victories in the MACJC State Tournament.
            ECCC, which went on to claim the state title with a 4-0 win over NWCC on Sunday, pulled off a 7-6 victory over the host Wildcats before Northwest eliminated PRCC with a lopsided 16-4 (six innings) bombardment to wrap Saturday’s action.
            The River is now 39-12, while East Central is 31-19 after its Sunday title bout win and Northwest is 31-16.
            Against ECCC, the Warriors went up 3-0 in the bottom of the first inning when Ryan Shotts led off with a double off the left field wall, moved to third on Cody Carson’s sacrifice bunt, and scored off Tim Anderson’s double to left. Chase Domino followed with a two-run homer over the left field wall. After Rubert Alcantara walked, Xzavier Franklin hit into a double play to end the inning.
            The Wildcats showed resiliency, bouncing back to tie it up in the top of the second. Krisjon Wilkerson out of St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis led off with a home run out of left center — his team-high 11th of the year — before Forrest Dungan of Columbia High followed suit with a solo dinger out of right to make it 3-2. A pair of strikeouts sandwiched a base hit by Kyle Dolan of Forrest County AHS and Darien Brown of Hattiesburg High drove Dolan home with a double down the third-base line. Braxton Lee of Picayune High then flew to left for the final out.
 
            Things were scoreless for the next three-and-a-half frames, but PRCC went up 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth.
            Kollin Cannon, another St. Stanislaus recruit, and Brown drew two-out walks and Cannon scored off Lee’s ensuing single. That prompted the mound exit for Warrior starter Caleb McKee for Fernando Gonzales who immediately saw Darius Knight of Pearl River reach on an error, scoring Brown. Brady McBride relieved Gonzales at that point, striking out Paul Pickerrell out of John Hardin High in Elizabethtown, Ky., for the final out.
            Pearl River padded its lead with a solo run in the top of the seventh when Dungan outran an infield grounder for a base hit, Nathan Pugh of Starkville High singled, and Dolan reached on a fielder’s choice. That set the stage for Cannon’s RBI single to center to make it 6-3.
            Mitchell Wooten then relieved McBride and retired Brown for the final out.
            But in the bottom of the frame, ECCC tied it up. John Morgan Berry and Maxwell Harmon led off with base hits and advanced on Deione Ulmer’s sac bunt. Wildcat starter Jake Brumfield out of Adams Christian Academy in Natchez was then relieved by Cameron Reynolds of Gulfport High and Reynolds immediately gave up a two-run double to Shotts — the only batter he would face.
            Southern Miss signee Brandon Fry out of Nease High in Jacksonville, Fla., took over the mound and gave up a game-tying RBI single to Anderson an out later before retiring Domino to end the inning.
            Lee led off the top of the eighth with a line-drive single to right and Wilkerson was intentionally walked two outs later before Dungan was belted by a pitch to load the bases. Wooten then struck out Pugh to thwart the scoring threat.
            East Central left runners at first and third in the bottom of the frame, while Pearl River did likewise in the top of the ninth. After Wooten walked lead off Carlos Gonzales of Warren Central, Jordan Mixon took over the mound. Cannon then outran a bunt for a single and Gonzales stole third before Brown fouled out and Lee hit into a double play for the final outs.
            In the bottom of the frame, Kalik May cracked a one-out, up-the-middle single and Domino was intentionally walked an out later. After May stole third base, Nicholls State (La.) signee Ryan Deemes out of Holy Cross High in Chalmette, La., relieved Fry and struck out Franklin to end the inning.
            After the Wildcats went three up, three down in the top of the 10th, Deemes walked lead off Caleb Woods in the bottom of the frame. Woods advanced to second off Harmon’s sacrifice bunt before Jake Bush reached on a booted infield grounder. With runners at first and third, Woods scored the game-winning run off a wild pitch.
            Mixon (1-1) picked up the win in relief, pitching two innings, giving up a hit and walking a batter; while McKee started and went five-and-two-thirds. He gave up five hits and walked three, while Gonzales faced two batters in the sixth, giving up two hits. McBride also relieved in the sixth, going one inning, giving up three hits, and striking out one; before Wooten relieved in the seventh. He went one-and-a-third, giving up a hit, striking out one, and walking two.
            Deemes (9-3) got the loss despite pitching only two-thirds of an inning, giving up a hit, striking out one, and walking one; while starter Brumfield went six-and-a-third, giving up six hits, striking out two, and walking one. Reynolds faced one batter in the seventh, giving up a hit, while Fry also relieved in the seventh, going two-and-a-third, giving up three hits, striking out one, and walking three.
            ECCC finished with 11 hits, led by Anderson (two RBIs) and Shotts (two RBIs) who both doubled and singled; while Berry and Harmon had two base hits each, Domino homered (two RBIs), and Jake Bush and May both singled.
            Lee paced the Wildcats’ 17-hit attack with four singles (one RBI), while Dungan (one RBI) and Wilkerson (one RBI) both homered and singled. Cannon (one RBI), Knight, and Pugh had two base hits a piece; while Brown doubled (one RBI), and Dolan and Pickerrell both singled.
            Each team committed one error in the contest.
            The River was obviously deflated heading into Saturday’s nightcap elimination game with Northwest. The Rangers opened the game with five runs in the top of the first before the Wildcats answered with two in the bottom of the inning.
            But NWCC blew it open in the second with six before PRCC cut the lead to 11-3 in the bottom of the fifth. The Rangers pumped their lead to 16-3 in the top of the sixth, while Pearl River’s solo run in the bottom of the frame ended the game via the 10-run rule.
            Starter Matt Ferguson (7-2) got the win in going the six-inning distance, giving up seven hits, striking out three, and walking three; while Wildcat starter Philip Chandler out of Stone County High in Wiggins went one-third of an inning, giving up three hits, striking out one, and walking three. Bradley Rayborn of Purvis High relieved Chandler, going a full inning, giving up five hits and walking a batter; while Anthony Lusco of Bay High relieved in the second, going four-and-two-thirds, giving up four hits, striking out five, and walking three.
            Kramer Hollenbach paced Northwest’s 12-hit effort with three singles (three RBIs), while Walt McCullough doubled and singled (one RBI). Dylan Castoria (two RBIs) and James Lear (three RBIs) had two singles each, while J.D. Tackett doubled (two RBIs) and Jordan Barnes and Tanner Densford (two RBIs) singled. Taylor King had an RBI for the Rangers.
            PRCC finished with seven hits, led by Lee’s two doubles (one RBI); while Pickerrell doubled and singled (one RBI) and Cannon, Ivan Garcia of Katy (Tex.) High, and Gonzales all had base hits. Pugh had two RBIs for the Wildcats.
            Both teams committed two errors each in the game.
            Host Pearl River enters the Region 23 Tournament as the No. 4 seed, while East Central is No. 1, Northwest No. 2, and LSU-Eunice (La.) No. 3.

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