SCOOBA – Austin Lowther's walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the eighth gave the Lions of East Mississippi Community College a 3-2 extra-inning, nightcap win to complete a Wednesday night home doubleheader sweep over Meridian Community College. EMCC tied a season high for runs and had 20 hits in the opener to begin the evening at Gerald Poole Field with an 18-6 run-rule victory over the visiting Eagles.
Following an opening game that featured a combined total of 24 runs scored on 30 hits, the nightcap settled in to become a pitchers' duel that was ultimately decided on a pair of dramatic, late-game home runs. The Lions grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the first frame of the scheduled seven-inning second game on Whitt Davis' fifth run-producing hit of the day. EMCC pushed the lead to 2-0 in the fourth off Meridian starting pitcher Logan McDowell when Corley Reynolds followed Destin Payton's one-out double with an RBI single to the opposite field.
That appeared to be all the run support Lion pitching would need, as EMCC starter Cole Whitman and middle reliever Alex Knight combined to keep the visitors hitless through six innings. Struggling with control problems with five walks and three hit batsmen to go along with his five strikeouts, Whitman gave way to Knight in the fifth after loading the bases to start the inning. Knight promptly struck out the side in order to preserve the Lions' 2-0 lead.
EMCC's potential combination no-hitter was broken up with one out in the seventh on Trace Jordan's line drive to right field. Two batters later and with the Eagles down to their last strike, Chase Coker smacked a 3-2 pitch over the left-centerfield wall to tie the game and send the nightcap into an extra frame.
In the top of the eighth, EMCC closer Eli Leathers stranded pinch-runner Blake Fields at third base by striking out Blake Morris and getting CJ Hughes to ground out to short. In the bottom half, Lowther deposited Caleb Yarborough's 1-2 delivery over the left-centerfield wall for the one-out game-winner. Hitless in his three previous at-bats of the nightcap and coming into the day with one home run on the year, Lowther also hit a three-run blast in the second inning of the opener.
With a team-leading five saves on the year, Leathers picked up his first collegiate win by getting the final two outs. Not to be overlooked, Knight was very effective in his set-up role by giving up just the two runs on two hits with five strikeouts and only one walk in 3.1 innings of middle relief.
The scheduled nine-inning opening contest was never much in doubt, as the Lions scored multiple runs in all but one inning. Following a two-run first, EMCC sent a dozen batters to the plate a frame later on the way to a nine-run outburst with seven hits, including five extra-base hits. In addition to Lowther's first homer of the day, the big inning also featured triples by Knight and Ja'Coby Cole along with doubles from Davis and Marcus Ragan.
As EMCC spread the wealth offensively with seven players posting multiple-hit outings, it was Davis who grabbed the headlines in the opener both at the plate and on the mound as the winning pitcher. The Huntsville, Alabama native went 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles, two singles and five runs batted in, while improving to 3-1 on the mound for the year.
East Mississippi went through five Meridian pitchers in the opener, as starting pitcher Bukhari Brown took the loss for the Eagles. The Lions extended their early 11-0 lead with three runs in the third and two additional runs in both the fifth and sixth innings.
For EMCC, Knight and Ragan had three hits apiece in the opener, while Lowther, Cole, Anthony Hickman and Mike Farnell all had two hits each. Nine of the Lions' 20 hits in the first game went for extra bases.
Meridian's scoring in the opener came during two innings. Following JD Gann's 11th home run of the year – a two-run blast off Davis in the third – the Eagles put up their other four runs in the sixth off EMCC reliever Cole Gullette.
Coach Chris Rose's 19-13 EMCC Lions improved to the .500 mark (9-9) in conference play with their fourth MACJC doubleheader sweep of the season. They are scheduled to close out the regular-season portion of their home schedule with a 2 p.m. Saturday twin bill on the Scooba campus against the Pearl River Wildcats.