FULTON – East Mississippi Community College hit five home runs to earn a road baseball doubleheader split with Itawamba Community College during Wednesday's MACJC action played at Roy Cresap Field. Ja'Coby Cole's sixth-inning grand slam lifted the visiting Lions to an 8-5 win in the opener, but their nightcap comeback attempt fell just short in a narrow 5-4 setback to ICC.
With three homers during the nine-inning opener, the Lions scored all but one of their 12 runs on the day via the long ball. EMCC came out swinging in the opening game with eventual winning pitcher Whitt Davis helping his own cause with a two-out, two-run homer in the first inning off ICC starter Klay Houston.
After the Indians promptly responded with three runs of their own in the bottom half of the first on Tyreque Reed's 13th home run of the year followed by Cody Pate's two-out, two-run single, the visitors reclaimed the lead with solo runs in the second and third innings. Orrion Bailey's two-out infield hit plated Corley Reynolds, who had opened the second with a double, to knot the game at 3-3. An inning later, Mike Farnell's leadoff home run to the opposite field – his first of two homers on the day – put the Lions back on top, 4-3, after three innings.
After Itawamba evened the score again in the fourth when a leadoff walk and a hit batsman led to Russ Payne's game-tying sacrifice fly, EMCC's Cole supplied the game-deciding blow in the top of the sixth. Following a force out at home, Cole connected off ICC's Blake Appel with the bases loaded for his second grand slam in five days and third homer of the year. Last Saturday in Perkinston, the Meridian product's third-inning slam provided the needed momentum during EMCC's 11-7 win over Mississippi Gulf Coast.
On the mound for the Lions against Itawamba, Davis and fellow right-hander Alex Knight jointly limited the Indians to just one run over the game's last five innings. In addition to inducing three ground ball double plays during the contest, the sophomore duo combined to strand a dozen ICC runners on base, including leaving the bases loaded twice. Working the first five innings on the hill, Davis improved his pitching record to 5-1 on the year along with belting his sixth home run of the season and 10th of his collegiate career. Knight, out of Sumrall High School, finished out the contest by throwing the final four innings to pick up his first career EMCC save.
Evenly distributing their 10 hits in the opener, the Lions were led by Austin Lowther's 2-for-3 outing at the plate that also included a pair of walks.
The seven-inning nightcap belonged to the home-standing Indians early in the contest. With EMCC starting pitcher Cole Whitman struggling with his control, ICC put up a pair of runs in the first and three more in the third to stake eventual winning pitcher Steffon Moore to a 5-0 advantage.
While being limited to only four hits in the contest, the Lions made the most of two of those hits by reaching Moore for two-run homers in the fourth and fifth innings. After Farnell's two-out, two-run blast – his second homer of the day and team-leading ninth of the year – made it 5-2, Marcus Ragan followed suit the next frame with his sixth home run of the year to cut the deficit to 5-4 after five innings.
EMCC relievers Garrett Ainsworth and Eli Leathers held the Indians scoreless over their last three at-bats, but Itawamba's bullpen also kept the Lion hitters in check down the stretch. Following Ragan's two-run homer in the fifth, ICC relievers Reid Carter and JT Salter combined to shut down EMCC's bats over the final 2.1 innings.
Aiming to lock down one of eight remaining MACJC baseball playoff spots, Coach Chris Rose's EMCC Lions, 24-15 overall and 14-11 in conference play on the year, will conclude their scheduled regular-season slate by traveling to Southwest Mississippi for a 2 p.m. Saturday doubleheader in Summit.