POPLARVILLE – East Mississippi Community College's challenging stretch of four consecutive road baseball doubleheaders came to a close with 10-0 and 6-4 setbacks to sixth-ranked Pearl River during Saturday's MACJC action played at Dub Herring Park.
After being held to just two hits by the Wildcats in the run-ruled opener, the Lions let a 4-0 lead slip away before falling in the nightcap when a pair of sixth-inning, go-ahead runs scored on the same wild pitch.
EMCC's final road twin bill of the campaign had an inauspicious start as two infield errors during the first three batters opened the door for three unearned runs in the first inning. The following frame, Wiley Cleland's two-out, two-run homer off EMCC starting pitcher Garrett Ainsworth capped a four-run inning that gave Pearl River an early 7-0 lead in the scheduled nine-inning opener.
That was more than enough run support for PRCC freshman standout Shemar Page, who only allowed an infield single to Dillon Brown in the third and a single to Destin Payton in the fifth on the way to improving to 8-1 on the year. The right-hander from Raleigh struck out eight and didn't allow a walk through five innings before giving way to the bullpen.
The Wildcats added two more runs in the fourth inning on Simon Landry's two-run double before reaching the run-rule margin with Noah Barron's one-out, run-scoring single in the sixth.
The nightcap featured a much more favorable start for the visitors, especially for EMCC starting pitcher Chance Witt. After staking himself to an early 2-0 lead with his second home run of the year – a two-run, opposite-field shot off PRCC's Drake Nightengale – the sophomore left-hander took to the mound for his ninth start of the year.
As Witt threw three scoreless innings to begin the second game, the Lions added two more runs in the second inning to help his cause. Anthony Hickman's two-out RBI single pushed the EMCC lead to 4-0.
On the heels of the Lions' back-to-back, two-run frames, Pearl River took it a step further with three consecutive two-run innings to first tie the game in the fifth and then ultimately claim the comeback win. After a leadoff walk to Landry to open the fourth, Barron tripled and then later scored on a Witt wild pitch to cut the deficit in half. An inning later, PRCC's Matt Taylor led off with a hit-batsman and then came around to score on Bryson Medious' two-run homer to knot the score at 4-4.
While Pearl River middle reliever Colin Danley held the visitors in check with four scoreless innings and seven strikeouts, the Wildcats were the benefactors of a game-deciding fluke play in the bottom of the sixth. Cleland was hit by a Weston Acey pitch to begin the inning and pinch-hitter Kevin Carter walked two batters later. Inheriting a 1-2 count on Taylor, freshman right-hander Jaxen Forrester came out of the EMCC bullpen to get the second out of the inning with a strikeout. With Medious at the plate, a passed ball moved both runners into scoring position. Forrester then uncorked a wild pitch that initially scored Cleland, but an errant throw to Forrester covering the plate bounded away and allowed Carter to follow with the second run.
PRCC sophomore closer Colby White battled through leadoff singles to Payton and Luke Miller in the seventh before getting a groundout and back-to-back strikeouts to lock down his eighth save of the year and complete the sweep for the Wildcats.
Out-hitting Pearl River, 8-5, in the nightcap, EMCC received two singles each from Payton and Miller to lead the way.
With four home doubleheaders remaining on their regular-season baseball slate, head coach Chris Rose's EMCC Lions (12-22, 5-15) return to the friendly confines of Gerald Poole Field for a 4 p.m. Tuesday twin bill against the Tigers of Northeast Mississippi.