River exits MACJC Tournament with 8-7 loss to East Central

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JACKSON – It''s East Central versus Hinds in Saturday''s MACJC State Tournament championship round after the Warriors eliminated Pearl River''s Wildcats with a hard-fought 8-7 win in Friday night''s semi-final.PRCC ended tournament host and MACJC South Division champ Jones County''s season earlier Friday with a 5-4 victory to get into the semi-final round, while ECCC fell into the losers'' bracket with a 10-inning, 12-9 loss to Hinds in the game prior to its match up with the Wildcats.East Central, Hinds, and Pearl River – along with LSU-Eunice (La.) – have already secured berths in next weekend''s Region 23 Tournament, which will be played at the home field of the state champion.Friday''s semi-final contest was originally slated for 7 p.m., but didn''t start until after 8 p.m. due to ECCC''s extra-inning battle with Hinds and didn''t conclude until 11:45 p.m.The Warriors went up 1-0 in the top of the first inning when Donnie Tabb led off with a walk and raced to third off a passed ball before Wildcat starter Robert Marzoni of Purvis High struck out two spot Darmaal Moore. Tabb scored off Richie Long''s ground out to short before Quin Stokes popped to short for the third out.Pearl River threatened in the bottom of the opening frame when B.J. Smith of Sumrall High and Matthew Magee of Petal High both cracked one-out singles, then Temple Harvey of Brandon High reached on a fielder''s choice. Harvey stole second before Warrior starter Willard Bacon struck out Southern Miss signee Ashley Graeter of Poplarville High to end the inning.That score remained intact until the top of the sixth when Moore led off with a walk and Stokes smashed a bomb to center that embedded in the wall. Wildcat center fielder B.J. Smith retrieved the ball thinking ground-rule double. Meanwhile, Stokes was racing home and his smash was ruled an inside-the-park home run to put ECCC up 3-0.”It was an honest mistake,” said fifth-year Wildcat head coach Jamie McMahon. “If B.J. had left it (ball) alone, it would''ve been a ground-rule double, but as soon as he retrieved it, that didn''t apply.”Graeter led off the bottom of the frame with a single to left before Harvey walked an out later. After Graeter stole third, Matt Linton of East Central High hit into a double play to end the inning.After Marzoni put two Warriors on with two outs in the top of the seventh, he exited the mound for reliever Josh Hubble of Forrest County AHS, who immediately walked Long to load the bases before Stokes grounded to second for the third out.The Wildcats unloaded offensively in the bottom of the inning. Luke Rowan and Clinton High and Jake Hawkins of Sumrall High led off the back-to-back walks which saw reliever Pervis Mann take over the mound in place of Bacon. After walking B.J. Smith to load the bases, Mann struck out Magee before pushing a run home with a passed ball. After Harvey popped out to third, Graeter belted a two-run double to center to knot things at 3-3, while Farrar followed by a double to score Graeter for a one-run lead. Bryn Whitehead of Sumrall High followed with a single, scoring Farrar, to make it 5-3 before Linton flew to left for the third out.After Hubble walked lead off Vincent Kortbawi in the top of the eight, Sean Kelly of Pearl River Central relieved to retire three straight to end the inning.Long relieved Mann in the bottom of the frame and the Wildcats managed to pad their lead. Hawkins got things rolling with a one-out single and stole second and third before Long K''ed B.J. Smith. Magee then singled to left, scoring Hawkins, but was thrown out at second in an attempt to stretch his base hit into a double.But the Warriors show resiliency in the top of the final inning. After Kelly put two on with a walk and a single with one out, Taylor Martin out of St. Michael''s High in Baton Rouge relieved. Martin immediately loaded the bases with a base on balls before Stokes'' RBI sacrifice to left made it 6-4. Kortbawi then crushed a two-run triple to tie it up and scored off Charles Hill''s single to regain the lead at 8-6. After Blake Lawson singled to right field, Ernie Triplett flew out to right center to end the inning.Lead off Harvey reached in the bottom of the frame when he was beaned by a pitch, then Graeter singled to right, which prompted Allen Johnson''s mound arrival in relief of Long. Harvey and Graeter moved to second and third off Farrar''s ground out to first, while Harvey scored off Whitehead''s ground out to short. Linton walked to put runners at first and third before pinch hitter Grae Orman of Clinton High grounded out to the pitcher to end the game.Long (2-0) picked up the win in his one inning on the mound, striking out one and hitting a batter; while starter Bacon went six innings, striking out three and walking six. Mann struck out one and walked two in his one inning of action, while Johnson walked on in the ninth.Martin (1-7) got the loss, despite pitching only two-thirds of an inning. He walked one batter.Marzoni went six-and-two-thirds, striking out five and walking seven; while Hubble walked two in his one-third inning on the mound. Kelly pitched one-and-a-third, striking out one and walking one.Stokes paced ECCC''s six-hit effort with his inside-the-park homer (three RBIs), while Kortbawi (two RBIs) and Yates (one RBI) both tripled, and Hill (one RBI), Lawson, and Moore all had base hits. Long also had an RBI.PRCC finished with 11 hits, led by Graeter who doubled and had two singles (two RBIs), while Magee had three singles (one RBI), Farrar doubled (one RBI), and Hawkins, B.J. Johnson, Linton, and Whitehead (one RBI) all had base hits.East Central committed one error in the game, while Pearl River played error free.Pearl River 5, Jones County 5Against Jones County earlier in the day, things were scoreless for the first two-and-a-half innings, but Pearl River went up 2-0 in the bottom of the third.Linton led things off with a single to right center before Hawkins walked and B.J. Smith outran a bunt for a base hit to load the bases. Magee''s ensuing sacrifice scored Linton, while Harvey''s ground out to short scored Hawkins before Graeter grounded to third for the final out.Jones left runners stranded at first and third in the top of the sixth, while Harvey reached on an error with one out in the bottom of the frame, setting the stage for Graeter''s left center homer to pump the Wildcats lead to 4-0. After Farrar grounded out, Whitehead singled down the first-base line, but was nailed at second on an attempted steal for the final out to end the inning.JCJC finally got on the scoreboard in the top of the seventh when Chase Headrick cracked a one-out single and Nick Ray followed with a two-run homer out of left field. Darion Hamilton walked before Ladd Rhodes hit into a double play for the final outs.After Hawkins smacked a two-out single to left center, Bobcat starter Cory Williams was relieved by Bryce Penny, who immediately walked B.J. Smith after Hawkins had stole himself to third before scoring off a wild pitch. After Penny walked Magee, Blake McIlwain relieved and retired Harvey to end the inning.In the top of the eighth, Landry cracked a one-out single before Chris Lofton smacked a ground-rule double to center. Wildcat starter Buck Bernard of Petal High exited the mound at that point for Kelly. Landry then scored off Zachary Robertson''s ground out to second before Tyler Gardner''s RBI single to left center cut the Wildcats'' lead to 5-4. After Headrick reached and wound up at second on an infield throwing error, Kelly intentionally walked Ray to load the corners before Hamilton grounded to the pitcher for the third out.Martin relieved Kelly to start the ninth and saw two straight ground outs before striking out Tanner Ford to end the game and Jones County''s season.Bernard (8-3) got the win in his seven-and-one-thirds innings on the mound, striking out four, walking one, and hitting a batter; while Kelly went two-thirds of an inning, walking one. Martin pitched the final inning and struck out one.Williams (10-2) got the loss in his six-and-one-thirds innings, striking out two and walking one; while Penny faced two batters in the seventh, walking both. McIlwain relieved in the seventh and closed it out.JCJC cracked nine hits to PRCC''s eight.Lofton led the Bobcats with a double and two singles, while Landry doubled and singled, Ray homered (two RBIs), and Gardner (one RBI), Headrick, and Ryan Roberts all singled. Robertson also had an RBI.Graeter led the way for the Wildcats with a homer and a single (two RBIs), while Hawkins had two base hits and Farrar, Linton, B.J. Smith, and Whitehead all had singles. Harvey and Magee also had one RBI each.PRCC played error free, while JCJC had one defensive miscue.