SCOOBA – Following a 10-day break from competition, the Lions of East Mississippi Community College dropped 12-6 and 7-1 decisions to second-ranked Jones County Junior College during Saturday's MACJC baseball season-opening doubleheader played at EMCC's Gerald Poole Field.
In the nine-inning opening game, EMCC starting pitcher Chance Witt was chased after facing only five batters in the first inning as the Bobcats took an early 5-0 lead on only two hits. The visitors benefitted from three walks and seven stolen bases in the opening frame.
Sophomore left-hander Luke Templeton kept the Lions in the game early by limiting Jones County to solo runs in the third and fifth innings during his 4.2 innings of effective relief work.
Meanwhile, EMCC was able to reach JCJC starting pitcher Cooper Brune for a run in the fourth on Philip Martin's two-out RBI single. The Lions then cut the deficit to 7-3 by plating a pair of runs in the fifth on consecutive run-scoring hits by Anthony Hickman and William Garriga.
The Bobcats responded by extending their lead to 11-3 with four more runs in the sixth inning. JCJC took advantage of two more Lion errors (EMCC had six for the game), while Luther Woullard delivered a two-run double to highlight the four-run frame for the visitors.
The Lions added three runs during the final third of the opening game on Dillon Brown's RBI double in the seventh followed by two more tallies on wild pitches in the bottom of the ninth to close out the scoring in the 12-6 contest.
EMCC had 10 hits off four Bobcat pitchers in the opener, led by Hickman, Garriga and Martin with two hits apiece. With 11 hits as a team, Jones County received solo homers from Brandon Hale and Stephen Matthews.
The early portion of the nightcap featured a pitchers' duel between EMCC freshman Jaxen Forrester and Jones County sophomore Jay Simpson. Both teams manufactured solo runs in the opening frame. After JCJC scored on a two-out dropped third strike with the bases loaded, the Lions countered in the bottom half of the first inning when Hickman smacked a one-out double to the centerfield wall before advancing to third on a balk and subsequently scoring on Garriga's groundout.
The key moment of the second game came in the top of the fourth inning. After the Bobcats loaded the bases with no outs, Forrester fanned Luke McKenzie and R.J. Brown at the bottom of the lineup. JCJC freshman third baseman Robbie Woody then promptly lined a clutch two-out, two-run single to center field to give the visitors a 3-1 lead.
Taking advantage of three more Lion errors late in the game, Jones County added a solo tally in the fifth and three more unearned runs a frame later to extend the margin to 7-1.
Unable to get their offense on track, the Lions were limited to just five hits by JCJC pitching in the seven-inning nightcap. After throwing five innings to pick up the victory, Simpson gave way to Bryce Fagan and Will Freeman, who tossed respective scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh.
Forrester, from Spanish Fort, Alabama, picked up the tough-luck loss for the Lions. The right-hander allowed four runs on six hits while striking out 10 and walking just one over 4.2 innings. Garrett Brown and Peyton Warren combined to finish the nightcap on the mound for EMCC. As a trio, the Lion hurlers scattered seven hits during the second game along with striking out a total of 14 JCJC batters.
Coach Chris Rose's 7-9 EMCC Lions continue conference play on the road by taking on the Rangers of Northwest Mississippi during a 3 p.m. Wednesday doubleheader in Senatobia.