SCOOBA – After forcing a deciding third game in their MACJC baseball playoff series against visiting East Central Community College with a 7-1 win to begin the afternoon, the eighth-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College couldn't overcome a pair of six-run innings by the defending state champions in the nightcap in dropping a 12-3 season-ending decision Saturday at EMCC's Gerald Poole Field.
With their backs against the wall following Friday night's series-opening 4-3 setback to the Warriors, EMCC received new life with J'Daylin Jackson's complete-game two-hitter in Saturday's initial contest. In throwing 137 total pitches, the freshman left-hander allowed just a first-inning double to Hunter Thrower and a third-inning bunt single to Maxwell Harmon before throwing six subsequent innings of no-hit baseball. Jackson, a product of Greenville's St. Joseph Catholic School, struck out six and walked five to improve to 8-1 on the season with his first collegiate complete game.
In the opener, the Lions took an early 1-0 lead in the first on an RBI single by Tyler Odom. They added two more runs in the fifth, highlighted by Chase Reeves' run-scoring single, to increase the lead to 3-1. An inning later, LeDarious Clark's mishandled infield grounder to third brought home EMCC's fourth run. Reeves then plated a pair of runs with a sacrifice fly to the right-field corner when East Central's Kyle McCullouch was momentarily dazed after making a spectacular running catch into the outfield fence.
With Jackson in total control on the mound for the Lions, the home team added another score in the eighth on Clark's RBI single to account for the final 7-1 outcome.
Riding the momentum of the opening-game victory, EMCC again grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the first inning of the nightcap on Trent Waddell's run-producing single off East Central starting pitcher Ty Hendrix.
On the heels of Jackson's nine-inning pitching gem in the opener, the Lions collectively struggled on the mound in game two. Upon escaping a second-inning jam unscathed after walking the bases loaded, EMCC starting pitcher Joshua Griffis was knocked out an inning later following a leadoff hit batsman and three consecutive singles by the visitors. The Warriors would go on to send 11 batters to the plate against five different Lion pitchers in the third inning alone.
East Mississippi responded by cutting the 6-1 deficit in half on Clark's towering two-run blast – his fifth homer of the season and 10th of his collegiate career – in the fourth inning.
However, any hope of an EMCC comeback was basically dashed in the fifth, as East Central batted through the lineup to produce six more runs on four hits, two walks and a hit batsman. The big blow in the inning for the Warriors was John Morgan Berry's three-run home run that made it 12-3.
Though matching East Central with a dozen hits as a team in the nightcap, the Lions stranded 14 total base runners to contribute to their second-game woes.
Hendrix, a sophomore right-hander from East Webster High School, went 6 2/3 innings for the Warriors to pick up the victory. Cory Kitchens and Conner West successfully combined to work the final 2 1/3 innings in relief.
East Central, now 22-25 on the season, advances to next week's (May 8-10) MACJC State Baseball Tournament to be hosted by Northeast Mississippi Community College. The Warriors and Tigers will be joined in Booneville for the four-team, double-elimination tournament by top-ranked Jones County and MACJC South Division runner-up Hinds.
With their first MACJC North Division baseball title since 1998, head coach Chris Rose's EMCC Lions concluded the 2014 campaign with a 32-13 overall record for the program's most wins in a season since 1990.