River state tournament bound after sweeping ICC 10-7, 13-6 in MACJC best-of-three series

FULTON – Pearl River''s Wildcats are state tournament bound after sweeping host Itawamba 10-7 and 13-6 in an MACJC best-of-three playoff series played here Friday and Saturday.Defending state champ ICC, the 2010 North Division champions, ended its season with the losses at 29-19 overall. PRCC, which blew out rival Mississippi Gulf Coast 14-6 in Poplarville earlier in the week to earn its berth in its series with the Indians, are now 24-25.Three other playoff series were played around the state with all South Division teams prevailing to set up an All-South state event. South champ Jones County will play host to the tournament after ending Northwest Mississippi''s season with back-to-back wins, while South runner-up East Central dropped its opening game to home-standing Holmes in Goodman before rebounding with a pair of victories on Saturday to eliminate the Bulldogs. Hinds swept Northeast Mississippi in Raymond.The state tournament will be played Thursday through Saturday at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson. Though the official bracket has not been released, PRCC head coach Jamie McMahon said his fourth-seeded Wildcats will open tournament play against top-seeded JCJC at 6 p.m. Hinds is seeded second, while ECCC is third.In Saturday''s win over Itawamba, the Wildcats blew it wide open early, taking a 10-0 lead after two-and-a-half innings before the Indians finally got on the scoreboard with a five-run effort in the bottom of the third.ICC pitcher Luke Hargett got off to a dismal start, walking the first two batter he faced in the first inning before Matt Magee of Petal High outran a bunt to first to load the bases. Clean-up batter Temple Harvey of Brandon High then drove in a run when he reached on a fielder''s choice before Southern Miss signee Ashley Graeter of Poplarville High followed with a two-run single and wound up at perched safely second. Zach Farrar of Brandon High singled and Bryn Whitehead of Sumrall High walked to load the bases, setting the stage for an RBI sacrifice by Luke Rowan of Clinton High to make it 4-0 before Taylor Bonifacio of East Central High flew to center for the final out.Itawamba managed one base runner in the bottom of the frame when Wildcat starter Buck Bernard of Petal High walked Sam Summerford, while PRCC padded its lead in the top of the second.Grae Orman of Clinton High led off the inning with a single before B.J. Smith of Sumrall High reached on a fielder''s choice, setting the stage for Magee''s two-run homer over the left field fence to pump the Wildcats'' lead to 6-0 before Hargett retired Harvey and Graeter for the final outs.Third baseman Joseph Koon cracked a two-out single in the bottom of the frame for ICC''s first hit of the game before Zach Scott struck out to end the inning.Farrar led off the top of the third with a base on balls, then Whitehead outran a bunt for a base hit before Rowan loaded the bases with a walk. Hargett exited the game at that point for reliever Blake Jolley, who immediately saw Bonifacio sacrifice Farrar courtesy runner Ethan Ewoldt of Oak Grove High home before Orman reached on an error, scoring Whitehead. Jolley then walked Smith to reload the corners and Magee followed with an RBI single before Harvey reached on a fielder''s choice, scoring Rowan to make it 10-0. Jolley K''ed Graeter for the third out.Itawamba''s offense came alive in the bottom of the third. Malcolm Warren led off with a walk before Ladarrius Cole doubled off the right field wall and Colby Moore followed with an RBI single. Summerford flew out to left, scoring Cole, then back-to-back singles by Josh Gatlin and Travis Frembgen loaded the bases, setting the stage for Adam Roye''s two-run single. Koon followed with an RBI double to make it 10-5 before Bernard struck out Scott and Warren grounded out to second to end the inning.After a scoreless fourth, Orman led off the top of the fifth with a walk and Harvey belted a two-run homer out of left field two outs later to make it 12-5 before Graeter grounded to third for the third out.That score remained intact until the bottom of the seventh when Scott cracked a two-out RBI single with runners at first and second for ICC''s final run; while PRCC scored its final run in the top of the final frame. Jolley retired Whitehead and Rowan to open the inning before exiting the game for reliever Austin Burns, who immediately gave up a single to Bonafacio before walking three straight to push in the game''s final run.Bernard (7-3) picked up the win in going the distance, striking out four and walking three; while Hargett (4-5) got the loss in his two innings on the mound, walking four. Jolley struck out three and walked two, while Burns had three base on balls.Magee paced PRCC''s 11-hit effort with a homer and two singles (four RBIs), while Farrar had two base hits, Harvey homered (four RBIs), and Bonifacio (one RBI), Graeter (two RBIs), Orman (one RBI), Rowan (one RBI), and Whitehead all had singles.ICC finished with 13 hits, led by Gatlin and Koon (one RBI) who both doubled and had two singles each; while Cole doubled and singled, Moore had two base hits (one RBI), and Frembgen, Roye (two RBIs), and Scott (one RBI) all had base hits.Pearl River committed three errors in the game to Itawamba''s two.In the Wildcats'' 10-7 win on Friday, PRCC went up 3-0 in the top of the first before the Indians cut its lead to one with a pair in the bottom of the second. The River answered with two more runs in the top of the third, while Itawamba tied it up at 5-5 with a three-run effort in the fourth.Each team scored solo runs in the fifth, while ICC went up 7-6 with a one-run effort in the bottom of the sixth before PRCC blew it open with a four-run barrage in the top of the sixth to make it as it ended.Sean Kelly (4-1) of Pearl River Central High got the win after relieving starter Brett Blaise out of Heritage Academy in Columbus in the fifth. Kelly struck out two and walked one, while Blaise struck out one, walked three, and hit one batter in his four-and-two-thirds innings on the mound.Indian starter Koon (12-2) got the loss in his six-and-one-thirds innings of action, striking out 10, walking two, and hitting two batters. Jake Sloan relieved in the seventh, striking out one and hitting a batter; Hunter Richardson in the eighth, and Sam Cruse in the ninth.Graeter paced the Wildcats'' 14-hit attack with a double and three singles (two RBIs), while Whitehead had three singles (three RBIs), Magee homered and doubled (one RBI), Smith doubled, and Harvey, Jake Hawkins of Sumrall High, Kelly (one RBI), and Matt Linton of East Central High all had base hits.Itawamba finished with 12 hits, led by Evan Weibel who homered and cracked two singles (one RBI); while Gatlin (two RBIs) and Sloan (one RBI) both homered and singled, Cole (one RBI) and Roye (one RBI) both doubled and singled, and Moore had a base hits.PRCC played error free, while ICC had three defensive miscues.

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