River eliminated by Jones in MACJC semi-final match

            PERKINSTON — The South No. 4 Pearl River Lady Wildcats were eliminated from the MACJC State Softball Tournament here Monday with a 3-2 semi-final loss to reigning state champion and South No. 2 Jones County.
            The victorious Lady Bobcats, ranked No. 8 in the latest NJCAA Division II softball poll, went on to defeat South No. 1 host Mississippi Gulf Coast 9-6 with another comeback victory to repeat as MACJC champs. Seventh-ranked MGCCC defeated South No. 3 East Central 7-3 in Monday’s other semi-final contest.
            Pearl River, which walloped North No. 1 Itawamba 15-0 in opening-round action on Sunday, dropped to 25-21 overall; while JCJC, 7-1 winners over North No. 3 Holmes in the first round, is now 39-6 following its title bout victory over perennial powerhouse Gulf Coast.
            In the fifth ‘Cat Fight of the 2013 season, things were scoreless for the first two innings. But the Lady Wildcats threatened in the top of the second leaving runners at second and third. Kelsea Lewis of Oak Grove High led off the frame with a single to right field before Courtney Warr out of Theodore High in Mobile, Ala., walked.
            After Heather Boutwell of Oak Grove High popped out, the runners advanced off a ground out by starting pitcher Brittany LeBlanc out of North Vermillion High in Maurice, La., but were left stranded then JCJC pitcher Samantha Buller KO’d the threat with a strike out Kaci Lantrip of Terry High.
            Rebecca Dunn drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the inning before Reagan Gavin grounded out to third to end the inning.
            Pearl River went up 1-0 in the top of the third when lead off Shannon Brown of Petal High was hit by a pitch and moved to second off a sac bunt by Whitney Waits of Oak Grove High before Megan Scronce of Petal High singled to right. After Emily Jackson, another Theodore (Ala.) High recruit, was belted by a Buller pitch to load the bases; Brown scored off Lantrip’s sacrifice to right field. Warr then flew to right for the final out.
            The Lady Bobcats threatened in the bottom of the frame when C.C. Lawn crushed a one-out, line drive double down the first base line and Relanda McFarland singled to right. After speedster McFarland stole second, LeBlanc retired Bethany Volking and Karley Crosby to end the inning.
            Lantrip managed a two-out single in the top of the fourth and JCJC left runners at first and third in the bottom of the inning.
            Makenzie Hawkins belted a one-out double to center field and Rebecca Dunn outran an infield grounder for a base hit before LeBlanc K’d Gavin. Lantrip then showed off her athleticism at short when she wowed the crowd with a dynamic leaping grab of Kalyn McNabb’s hard-hit line drive to end the inning.
            In the top of the fifth, Pearl River padded its lead with a solo run when Waits led off with a bloop single to left, moved to second off Scronce’s pop out, and scored off Jackson’s double to the left field wall. Buller then retired Lewis and Warr with The River up 2-0.
            The bottom of the frame proved to be the Lady Wildcats demise. Lawn led off with a single through short and Volking singled down the left field line winding up at second a strike out later. After Karley Crosby flew out to right, Brook David’s hard-hit grounder to third ricocheted into third baseman Jackson’s face, scoring Lawn.
            After a 10-minute delay to tend to Jackson’s fractured nose, play resumed — with Jackson still at her position — and Hawkins responded with a two-run double to right for the final runs of the game. LeBlanc then struck out Dunn to end the inning.
            LeBlanc’s one-out walk was all the Lady Wildcats could muster in the top of the sixth before she struck out the first two batters and retired Lawn in the bottom of the inning. PRCC went three up, three down in the top of the seventh to end the game.
            Buller (23-2) got the win in pitching the distance, giving up six hits, striking out four, walking three, and hitting a batter; while LeBlanc (11-9) was the loser. LeBlanc, who tossed an impressive one-hitter against Itawamba in the opening round, also hurled the distance; giving up nine hit, striking out seven, and walking one.
            Waits paced the Lady Wildcats at the plate with a pair of singles, while Jackson doubled (one RBI) and Lantrip, Lewis (one RBI), and Scronce all had base hits.
            Lawn led the Lady Bobcats with three base hits, while Hawkins belted two doubles (two RBIs). Volking doubled and David (one RBI), Dunn, and McFarland all had singles.
            Both teams played an error free game.
            Complete details of the Thursday-through-Saturday Region 23 Tournament are unavailable, but Pearl River will open against Mississippi Gulf Coast, Jones County against Itawamba, and East Central against No. 1-ranked and reigning regional and national champion LSU-Eunice (La.) on the first day of the event.

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