River still tops in South with doubleheader sweep over 17th-ranked Jones

             ELLISVILLE — Ninth-ranked Pearl River remains in first place in the MACJC South Division derby after Tuesday’s doubleheader sweep over 17th-ranked Jones County in beautiful Community Bank Park.
            The Wildcats pulled off a hard-fought 1-0 shutout to claim the first game before following with a 5-0 victory in the nightcap to improve to 34-10 overall and 17-5 in division play. The host Bobcats, on the other hand, dropped to 27-15 and 15-9.
            Pearl River can clinch the division’s first place spot with at least a split in Saturday’s regular-season finale at Southwest Mississippi in Summit. Should PRCC get swept by SMCC, No. 2 East Central, 15-7 in division play, could overtake The River with a sweep over Hinds in Decatur Saturday in its final twin bill.
            The top four finishers in the North and South divisions earn berths in one of four MACJC playoff series set for May 3-4. North No. 1 will host South No. 4, North No. 2 will host South No. 3, South No. 1 will host North No. 4, and South No. 2 will host North No. 3.
            The series’ winners will earn berths in May 10-12's MACJC State Tournament to be hosted by the highest-seeded South winner of its playoff series. If no South team wins its series, the top-seeded North team will play host.
            Jones which wrapped its division schedule with Tuesday’s sweep, ends its regular season against North foe Northwest Mississippi Saturday in Ellisville. JCJC is ensured of a series berth as either the division’s second or third seed pending the results of this weekend’s ECCC-HCC doubleheader.
 
            In Tuesday’s first game, the two teams belted a combined five hits — two off Jones starter Cody Brewer and three off River starter Ryan Deemes — with the Wildcats scoring the winning run in the top of the fifth inning.
            The Bobcats managed base runners in the bottom of the first when Cody Minter drew a one-out walk, Benji Sullivan singled to right field, and Tyler Graves reached on a fielder’s choice. Alex Shermer had a base hit in the second for JCJC, while Jordan Stark reached on an error in the fourth.
            The Wildcats’ first runners of the game came in the top-of-the-fifth when Krisjon Wilkerson out of St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis led off the frame with a monstrous triple to the center field wall and scored on a sacrifice by Forrest Dungan of Columbia High. Nathan Pugh out of Starkville High answered the contest’s only run with a double to right center, but Brewer retired two straight for the final outs.
            Both teams went three up, three down for the next two innings until JCJC’s Josh Pankratz blasted a one-out double in the bottom of the seventh, but was left stranded when Stark and Shermer ended the game with fly outs.
            Deemes (7-2), a Nicholls State (La.) signee who prepped at Holy Cross High in Chalmette, La., got the win in going the distance; giving up three hits, striking out two, and walking one.
            Brewer (5-2) got the loss despite giving up a meager two hits in going the distance, striking out three.
            Wilkerson tripled and Pugh doubled for the Wildcats, while Dungan had an RBI.
            Pankratz doubled for JCJC, while Shermer and Sullivan had base hits.
            PRCC committed one error in the game to JCJC’s none.
            In the nightcap, Pearl River went up 1-0 in the top of the first before adding three in the third and a solo run in the fifth.
            Jones threatened in the seventh when the Bobcats loaded the bases with two outs, but a fly out ended the threat.
            Starter Christian Talley (7-4), a Southern Miss signee who prepped at Hancock County High, got the win in going the distance; giving up three hits and striking out nine Bobcat batters.
            Jones starter Pankratz (2-3) got the loss in his two-and-one-third innings on the mound, giving up five hits, striking out one, and walking two before Dawson Kennard relieved in the third. He also pitched two-and-a-third, giving up three hits, striking out two, and walking two; while Cole Barlow relieved in the fifth to close it out. Barlow gave up two hits, struck out two, and walked two.
            Darien Brown of Hattiesburg High and Pugh (one RBI) paced the Wildcats’ 10-hit attack with two singles each, while Darius Knight of Pearl River had a two-run homer in the third. Dungan doubled and St. Stanislaus recruit Kollin Cannon (one RBI), Braxton Lee of Picayune High, Paul Pickerrell out of John Hardin High in Elizabethtown, Ky., and Wilkerson all had base hits.
            Collin Dexter had two singles for the Bobcats, while Trent Giambrone had a base hit.
            PRCC committed two errors in the game to JCJC’s one.
            Pearl River and Jones split an earlier doubleheader played March 29 in Poplarville with the Bobcats taking a 10-8 victory in the first game, while the Wildcats were 9-4 winners in the nightcap.

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