SCOOBA – The Lions of East Mississippi Community College continued their hot start to the 2017 baseball season by sweeping preseason 18th-ranked Shelton State Community College, 8-5 and 4-3, Sunday afternoon at EMCC's Gerald Poole Field.
The EMCC Lions combined timely long-ball hitting with effective bullpen usage to improve to 9-1 overall on the year with their seventh consecutive victory.
In the nine-inning opener, the visitors reached EMCC starting pitcher Alex Knight for four runs to take an early 4-2 lead after four frames. The Bucs' three runs in the third were produced on back-to-back doubles by J.D. Kubiszyn and Jon Sumner after Knight issued consecutive walks to begin the inning.
Inning-opening singles by Anthony Hickman and Marcus Ragan in the bottom of the third led to EMCC's first two runs of the afternoon scoring on a passed ball and an infield groundout. Two innings later, the Lions took the lead (5-4) on back-to-back home runs by Armani Lewis and Whitt Davis off Shelton starting pitcher Mason Duke. Lewis' first collegiate homer highlighted a 3-for-4 outing at the plate, while Davis' team-leading second home run of the year marked the sixth homer of his EMCC career.
The Lions manufactured two more tallies in the sixth inning on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly by Hickman. The two teams then traded solo runs in the seventh for the final 8-5 margin.
Along with Lewis' three-hit performance in the opener, Davis and Mike Farnell added two hits apiece in EMCC's 11-hit team effort.
Meanwhile on the mound for the Lions, Starkville Academy product Luke Templeton earned his first collegiate victory by throwing 2.2 solid innings in relief of Knight. The freshman left-hander allowed just one run on two hits while fanning two and walking two during his middle relief role. Fellow southpaw Bubba Stockstill followed Garrett Ainsworth on the bump and struck out four of the seven batters he faced over the final two innings to record his first collegiate save.
EMCC struck first in the seven-inning nightcap by pushing across a run in the third without a hit. After being hit by a pitch, Wesley Leamon stole second and later moved to third on a wild pitch before being driven home on Ragan's groundout.
All of the second game's remaining scoring came when the two teams traded three-run efforts in the fourth inning. For the second time in as many starts, EMCC freshman right-hander Vijay Miller struck out seven among the nine outs he recorded in the contest. In the fourth, however, the Lions' two-sport standout was chased after Kubiszyn's two-run homer. Sumner followed with a solo blast off reliever Antoine Watts to give the Bucs a temporary 3-1 lead.
The home-standing Lions answered right back in the bottom half of the inning with Davis and Knight setting the table with a single and a walk, respectively. After Farnell moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, Hickman plated Davis with a groundout to short. Third-year sophomore Corley Reynolds, of Pascagoula, then came through in the clutch by lofting his first collegiate homer – a two-out, two-run shot off Shelton starter Austin Bohannon – over the left-field wall to put EMCC back in front 4-3.
The respective bullpens took over from there as neither team was able to produce any offense over the final three innings. For the Lions, freshman right-hander Austin Howland held Shelton State in check by not allowing a hit over two innings before giving way to sophomore closer Eli Leathers, who nailed down his third save of the year by working a scoreless seventh.
Coach Chris Rose's EMCC Lions will stay at home to play host to Wallace State Community College, out of Hanceville, Alabama, in a 3 p.m. Wednesday doubleheader at Gerald Poole Field on the Scooba campus.