SCOOBA – The East Mississippi Community College baseball team successfully opened its 2014 home slate by sweeping Bishop State Community College, 3-2 and 11-9, in a pair of games that went down to the wire Saturday afternoon at Gerald Poole Field.
In the opening contest, the Lions staked starter and eventual winner Chase Cameron to an early 2-0 lead with solo runs in the first and second innings. Tyler Odom brought home leadoff batter LeDarious Clark with a fielder's choice in the first, while Clark then doubled in courtesy runner Brandon Acker the following frame.
Cameron pitched into the fifth inning before giving way to Conner Burton, who got off to a shaky start in relief by allowing hits to three of the first four batters he faced. Following singles by Kevin Barnett and Jonathan Brown, Dylan Manichia delivered a two-out, two-run double to left-center field to close the margin to 3-2.
Burton, from East Webster High School, would settle down to retire five of the next seven Bishop State hitters via the strikeout. Burton then relied on an excellent defensive play to thwart one final rally by the visitors. With the potential game-tying run in scoring position in the top of the seventh, Burton walked Brown with two outs. However with Manichia at the plate for the Wildcats, Brown was promptly picked off first base as EMCC catcher Dylan Vuncannon threw behind the runner at first to seal the victory.
Cameron, a transfer from the University of Montevallo, picked up his first EMCC victory by giving up four hits and no runs with three strikeouts and a walk. Burton fanned six of the dozen batters he faced over the final 2.2 innings.
After managing only two hits as a team in the opening game, the Lions' bats came alive to begin the nightcap. Nyman's leadoff double set the tone that paved the way for three runs on four hits in the first. Colton Caver's run-scoring double highlighted a two-run second, while EMCC added four more runs on five hits to take a 9-2 lead after three innings.
The visitors again made things interesting in the latter part of the second game by first plating a pair of runs in the fifth on three hits to chase starter J'Daylin Jackson. The next inning, the Lions' defense faltered with three infield errors combined with four Bishop State singles. The Wildcats batted around and scored four times in the frame to cut the deficit to 9-8.
East Mississippi did respond in the bottom of the sixth by getting back two of those runs on a two-out, two-run single by Brad Swede. However, another infield error by the Lions in the seventh led to another Bishop State tally. With Hunter Swart on in relief as EMCC's fifth pitcher of the contest, the Wildcats managed to get a pair of runners in scoring position with two outs. That's when another sparkling defensive play saved the nightcap for the Lions. As a late-game replacement in right field, Acker, a wide receiver on EMCC's NJCAA National Championship football team this past fall, made a diving catch on Daniel Dunnam's sinking line drive to end the rally and complete the sweep.
Jackson, a freshman left-hander from Greenville's St. Joseph Catholic School, moved to 2-0 on the year after giving up four runs on six hits in 4.2 innings with four strikeouts and no walks. Swart, a Nanih Waiya product, picked up his second save of the season.
Offensively, the Lions' 11-hit effort in the nightcap was led by two-hit outings from Clark, Nyman, who scored two runs and drove in a pair, and Liberto, who singled during both of his at-bats.
Coach Chris Rose's 4-2 EMCC Lions will play a rescheduled road doubleheader Sunday afternoon at Wallace Community College in Selma, Ala., before returning home to play host to Hinds on Tuesday. Doubleheader action on the Scooba campus is set for a 1 p.m. first pitch.