SENATOBIA --- One of four berths in this weekend’s state softball tournament is on the line Monday after host North Division champ Northwest Mississippi and South No. 4 Pearl River split in the opening day of their best-of-three MACJC playoff series here on the NWCC campus.
The visiting Lady Wildcats, 23-22 overall, pulled off a hard-fought 2-0 victory in the first game before the Lady Rangers, 27-9, were 3-1 winners in the nightcap to push things into a third and deciding game.
The series, one of four played league-wide this weekend, was originally scheduled for Friday and Saturday, but opening-round action was moved to Saturday, then Sunday due to wet field conditions.
The deciding NWCC-PRCC contest is set for 1 p.m. Monday.
In the first game, things were scoreless for the first five innings, but the Lady Rangers threatened in the bottom of the fourth when Micalah Beall and Kendall Alford led off with back-to-back base hits and moved to second and third off Carla Avant’s sacrifice bunt.
Lady Wildcat hurler Rachel Hickman of Poplarville High then retired two straight to end the inning.
In the top of the fifth, Pearl River came within a whisker of lighting up the scoreboard when Katie Davis of D’Iberville High and Mary Grace Key of Leake Academy cracked back-to-back, two-out singles with Breanna Herndon of Poplarville High following with an up-the-middle base hit before Davis was nailed in a rundown between third and home for the final out.
The Lady Wildcats scored the deciding runs in the sixth when Hannah Holloway of Petal High belted a one-out double to left center and scored off a double to right center by Brooke Roberts of St. Amant (La.) High. Briana Leonard of John Curtis Christian (La.) High then walked, Hickman popped out, and Dani Barton of Harrison Central High and Davis were both beaned by a pitches to push in a second run before Lady Ranger starter Kiley Dunagan K’d Key for the final out.
Pearl River threatened to pad its lead in the seventh when Herndon and Branda Northrop smacked consecutive lead singles, but Holloway hit into a double play before Roberts grounded to second for the final out.
Hickman (10-10) picked up the three-hit win in going the distance, striking out six and walking two, while Dunagan (9-3) got the loss in her six innings of work. She gave up eight hits, struck out 11, and walked one before Beall relieved in the seventh.
Herndon and Northrop paced The River’s eight-hit effort with two singles each, while Holloway and Roberts (one RBI) both doubled and Davis (one RBI) and Key had base hits.
Alford, Beall, and Brittany Rochelle had base hits for the Lady Rangers.
Pearl River committed two errors in the game to Northwest’s one.
In the nightcap game, the first three innings were scoreless, but the Lady Rangers went up 2-0 in the top of the fourth when Rochelle cracked a single to left and Alford singled to center an out later. The duo advanced on a passed ball, setting the stage for Heath Griffith’s line drive RBI-single to center. After Griffith stole second, Carla Avant pushed the second run home after reaching on a fielder’s choice.
Hickman relieved starter Skylar Cook of St. Amant (La.) High in the fifth and gave up a one-out double to Christina Berryhill, who moved to third off Erin Claire Stegall’s sac bunt and scored off Rochelle’s ensuing single to make it 3-0.
The River left runners at first and second off a lead off single by Key and a Herndon walk in the bottom of the frame, but managed a run in the sixth when Holloway lead off with a base hit to center, Roberts and Hickman both reached on fielder’s choices, and Barton followed with an RBI double to center.
The Lady Wildcats made it interesting in the bottom of the seventh when Davis led off with a single, which prompted the mound exit of starter Jessica Holliday for Dunagan. Shay Rosser of D’Iberville High immediately out ran a bunt for a base hit before Dunagan retired three straight to end the game.
Holliday (9-2) got the win in her six innings of work, giving up seven hits, striking out four, and walking one, while Dunagan pitched the seventh.
Cook (8-8) got the loss in her four innings on the mound, giving up five hits and striking out two, while Hickman pitched the final three, giving up three hits and recording a strikeout
Griffith (one RBI) and Rochelle (one RBI) led the Lady Rangers’ eight-hit effort with two singles each, while Beall doubled and Berryhill and Holliday both had base hits.
Pearl River also finished with eight hits, led by Holloway and Rosser with two singles each, while Barton doubled (one RBI) and Davis, Key, and Roberts all had base hits.
The Lady Wildcats committed two errors in the game to the Lady Rangers’ none.
The MACJC State Tournament is set for Friday through Sunday at South Division champ Jones County after the third-ranked Lady Bobcats ended North No. 4 Holmes’ season with 6-0 and 10-0 victories in their series.
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PEARL RIVER @ NORTHWEST MISS.
MACJC Best-Of-Three Playoff Series
Played Sunday, April 26, 2015 @ Senatobia, MS
Pearl River (23-21) 000 002 0 -- 2 8 2
Northwest Miss. (26-9) 000 000 0 -- 0 3 1
WP: Rachel Hickman (10-10), starter, distance, 3 hits, 6 K, 2 BB.
Also Pitching: None.
Catcher: Brooke Roberts.
LP: Kiley Dunagan (9-3), starter, 6 innings, 8 hits, 11 K, 1 BB.
Also Pitching: Micalah Beall (7), 1 inning.
Catcher: Ashton Needham.
Pearl River: Breanna Herndon 2-1B, Branda Northrop 2-1B, Hannah Holloway 2B, Brooke Roberts 2B (RBI), Katie Davis 1B (RBI), Mary Grace Key 1B.
Northwest Miss.: Kendall Alford 1B, Micalah Beall 1B, Brittany Rochelle 1B.
Northwest Miss. (27-9) 000 210 0 -- 3 8 0
Pearl River (23-22) 000 001 0 -- 1 8 2
WP: Jessica Holliday (9-2), starter, 6 innings, 7 hits, 4 K, 1 BB.
Also Pitching: Kiley Dunagan (7).
Catcher: Olivia Owen.
LP: Skylar Cook (8-8), starter, 4 innings, 5 hits, 2 K.
Also Pitching: Rachel Hickman (5), 3 innings, 3 hits, 1 K.
Catcher: Brooke Roberts.
Northwest Miss.: Heath Griffith 2-1B (RBI), Brittany Rochelle 2-1B (RBI), Micalah Beall 2B, Kendall Alford 1B, Christina Berryhill 1B, Jessica Holliday 1B.
Pearl River: Hannah Holloway 2-1B, Shay Rosser 2-1B, Dani Barton 2B (RBI), Katie Davis 1B, Mary Grace Key 1B, Brooke Roberts 1B.
NOTE: Northwest Miss. is the MACJC North Division champion, Pearl River is No. 4 in the South. The winner of the PRCC-NWCC series earns one of four berths in the MACJC State Tournament set for May 1-3.
UP NEXT: The deciding Game 3 of the best-of-three series is set for 1 p.m. Monday.