SCOOBA – Despite battling into extra innings in the opener and coming up just short during a late-game comeback attempt in the nightcap, the East Mississippi Community College softball team opened the second portion of the MACJC North Division slate the same way the first half began. The visiting Northwest Mississippi Rangers prevailed 7-4 in nine innings to open Monday's rematch doubleheader and then held off a seventh-inning rally by the home team to complete the sweep with a 6-4 nightcap victory at the EMCC Softball Field.
A month ago in Senatobia, the Lady Lions opened division play in similar fashion by dropping a pair of tough two-run decisions – 6-4 in eight innings and 5-3 in the nightcap – to Northwest Mississippi.
In Monday's key division twin bill delayed three days because of weekend rain throughout the state, Northwest took the early upper hand in the opener by plating a pair of runs in the top of the first off EMCC starting pitcher Halie Green. Alex Barrett's triple drove home Andi Barrett, who led off the game with a single, and then came around to score on Kendall Alford's ground out.
The Lady Lions got one of the runs back in the bottom half of the first after NWCC starting pitcher Roxanna Kimes loaded the bases by allowing a single to Corey Dawkins plus back-to-back walks before handing the ball to reliever Kiley Dunagan. EMCC sophomore catcher Abby Roberts promptly greeted Dunagan with a run-scoring single to the opposite field to cut the deficit to 2-1.
After that, Northwest's Dunagan found a groove and proceeded to retire eight of the next 12 EMCC hitters by strikeout. The Rangers added an unearned run in the fourth aided by an Alex Barrett double followed by a dropped pop-up behind second base.
East Mississippi was able to knot the score at 3-3 by manufacturing two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Dunagan hit her pitching counterpart with a pitch to open the inning. Green moved around to third on Kristen Mitchell's successful sacrifice bunt attempt that was thrown away at first. Green then scored on Dawkins' sacrifice fly to left field. After Mitchell was bunted over to third, Jade Albritton's clutch two-out single to right field would ultimately send the opener into extra frames.
Both teams took advantage of the international tie-breaker rules by scoring their respective leadoff runners from second base in the eighth inning. In the top of the ninth, the Rangers benefitted from a pair of EMCC errors to push across three runs and secure the opening-game victory.
The Lady Lions were out-hit, 12-5, in the opener and went down on strikes 13 times. Dunagan evened her record to 3-3 with the victory, while EMCC's Green fell to 8-7 on the year with her 12th complete-game decision in 13 pitching starts.
As they did in the opener, the Lady Lions got down early in the nightcap as well. In the first, Andi Barrett again provided the spark with a leadoff single for the visitors. She then stole second and moved to third on a passed ball before coming into score on Alford's sacrifice fly to center field.
Northwest extended its lead during the middle portion of the second game, as EMCC starting pitcher Taylor Hackney issued a total of five bases on balls in the third and fourth innings. Three of those base runners came around to score, beginning with another Alford sacrifice fly in the third followed by a clutch two-out, two run single from Andi Barrett the next frame.
The Lady Lions were able to reach Northwest starting pitcher Micalah Beall for a solo run in the bottom of the fourth. Hackney's two-out single preceded Mitchell's RBI double to cut the deficit to 4-1. However, the Rangers got the run back plus another on Alex Barrett's two-run double in the top of the sixth.
The score stood at 6-1 until EMCC made a valiant comeback attempt in their final at-bat. Dawkins capped a 3-for-4 nightcap effort at the plate with a leadoff single in the seventh. Two batters later, Albritton brought home Dawkins with her third single of the contest. Roberts, out of Clarkdale High School, then made things very interesting by belting her second home run of the year and fourth of her collegiate career with Albritton aboard to trim the margin to 6-4. The rally was thwarted when Lindsey Shaw entered the game in relief to get the final two outs and complete the road sweep for the 19-10, 10-4 Rangers.
Three-hit outings from Dawkins and Albritton paced EMCC's 12-hit team effort in game two. Hackney, who dropped to 7-5 on the year with the loss, limited Northwest to just five hits but was slowed by her seven walks allowed during the complete-game pitching stint.
Coach Kyndall White's 19-15 EMCC Lady Lions, now 8-6 within the division, hit the road to take on winless Coahoma Wednesday afternoon in Clarksdale before returning home to play host to Holmes in a Saturday doubleheader set for a noon start on the Scooba campus.