Wildcats split with Hinds in South Division openers

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POPLARVILLE Nineteenth-ranked Pearl River Community College split with fourth-ranked Hinds in both teams MACJC South Division baseball openers here Wednesday with the visiting Eagles taking a 6-3 victory in the first game of the doubleheader, while the Wildcats prevailed with a 1-0 squeaker in the nightcap contest. PRCC improved to 15-5 overall and are even in division play at 1-1, while HCC is 16-3 and 1-1. Pearl River and Hinds are two of four MACJC and five Region 23 squads in the NJCAA first Division II regular-season poll of the 2012 season. Itawamba is ranked 13th and Copiah-Lincoln 20th, while regional counterpart LSU-Eunice tops the balloting at No. 1. After a scoreless first inning In Wednesday opening game, Hinds went up in the top of the second when lead off Caleb Baucum homered out of left field, then Justin Smith reached on an error. After Chris Jones cracked an up-the-middle single, Ryno Martin-nez followed an out later with a two-run single down the first-base line to make it 3-0 before Wildcat starter Taylor Byrd of Petal High retired Beau Wallace and Akiko Thompson for the final outs. The River threatened in the bottom of the frame when lead off Chad Livingston, a Southeastern Louisiana transfer who prepped at Slidell (La.) High, singled and moved to third off an up-the-middle base hit by Marcus Lawton Jr. of Biloxi High. After Krisjon Wilkerson out of St. Stanislaus College in Bay St. Louis flew out to right, Austin Carter of Sumrall High hit into a double play to end the inning and squash the scoring threat. The Eagles padded their lead in the third when lead off Daniel Gilbert doubled down the right field line, stole third, and scored off Tyler Akins ensuing single to center to make it 4-0. Byrd then retired three straight. In the bottom of the inning, Braxton Lee of Picayune High drew a two-out walk, stole second, and scored the Wildcats first run when Chase Toussaint of Petal High outran a bunt for a base hit. Chase Lewallen of Sumrall High followed with a single to left center before Livingston grounded to first for the final out with runners at first and third. After the fourth went scoreless, Hinds threatened in the fifth when Thompson led off with single, moved to second off Gilbert sacrifice bunt and stole third before he was left stranded when Byrd retired two straight. In the bottom of the inning, Ryan Best of Oak Grove High led off with an up-the-middle base hit before Braxton Lee reached on a fielder choice. After Toussaint struck out, Lewallen pushed Lee home when he reached on an error to make it 4-2. Livingston flew out to left field to end in the inning. The Eagles loaded the bases in the sixth when Chris Jones and Jacob Thomas smacked one-out singles and Beau Wallace walked a strike out later before Byrd Kd Thompson his third strikeout of the inning to KO the threat. Pearl River went three up, three down in the bottom of the frame. In the top of the seventh, Gilbert led off with a single to left center, setting the stage for Akins two-run homer over the left field wall to make it 6-2. That prompted Byrd mound exit for side-winding righthander Bradley Rayborn of Purvis High who retired three straight. In the bottom of the frame, Aaron Lee of Pearl River Central High led off with a walk, moved to second on a passed ball, and scored an out later off Braxton Lee up-the-middle single to make it 6-3. After Toussaint cracked a base hit to center, HCC starter Alex Gunn was relieved by Akins who retired two straight to end the game. Gunn (2-0) got the win in his six-and-a-third innings on the mound, giving up eight hits, striking out two, and walking a batter; while Akins faced the last two batters in the seventh. Byrd (3-1) picked up his first loss of 2012. He went six innings, gave up 11 hits, struck out three, and walked one; while Rayborn pitched the seventh. Akins paced Hinds 11-hit attack with a home run and a single (three RBIs), while Gilbert doubled and singled, Jones and Martin-nez (two RBIs) had two base hits each, Baucum homered (one RBI), and Thomas and Thompson both singled. PRCC finished with eight hits, led by Toussaint two singles, while Best, Carter, Lawton, Braxton Lee (one RBI), Lewallen (two RBIs), and Livingston all singled. Each team committed an error in the contest. In the nightcap game, Hinds put runners on via a one-out single by Gilbert and Akins reaching on an error, but Baucum hit into a double play for the final outs. In the bottom of the inning, Pearl River scored what would be the deciding run. Lead off Braxton Lee wound up at second base via an Eagle error, moved to third when Toussaint outran a bunt for a base hit, and scored off Lewallen sacrifice to right before Livingston flew out and Lawton struck out to end the inning. In the top of the fourth, HCC left runners at first and third when Akins cracked a one-out single to left center and Baucum followed with a base hit down the third base line, but Justin Smith hit into a double play the squash the threat. PRCC starter Brandon Pennington (4-0) of Sumrall High got the win in going the distance, giving up six hits, striking out one, and walking one; while HCC starter Kirk Thornton (1-1) got the loss in this five-and-two-thirds on the mound. He gave up four hits and struck out three before Carey Taylor relieved in the sixth. Taylor struck out one. Hinds finished with six hits all singles by Akins, Baucum, Gilbert, Martin-nez, Smith, and Wallace; while Livingston paced The River four-hit effort with a double. Carter, Braxton Lee, and Toussaint contributed base hits, while Lewallen had the game only RBI. The Eagles committed two errors in the game to the Wildcats one. Pearl River and Hinds eye a South Division rematch Friday, April 6, with a 1 p.m. doubleheader in Raymond. The Wildcats return to action with back-to-back arch-rival doubleheaders starting Saturday when they travel to Miss. Gulf Coast in Perkinston for a 2 p.m. doubleheader before Jones County visits Wildcat Stadium for a 4 p.m. twin bill on Tuesday.