Pair of 4-3 wins over Northwest highlights EMCC’s “Sophomore Day” and secures berth in MACJC softball playoffs

SCOOBA – The Lions of East Mississippi Community College made their "Sophomore Day" experience even more enjoyable Monday afternoon by sweeping Northwest Mississippi by identical 4-3 scores and securing the MACJC's No. 7 seed for this weekend's best-of-three playoff series.

Entering its regular-season finale in a three-way tie for seventh place with Northwest and Pearl River, EMCC locked up the No. 7 seed with Monday's sweep over Northwest and by winning the tiebreaker with PRCC, who swept Mississippi Delta Monday to also finish at 14-14 in league play, after having swept the Lady Wildcats in Scooba last month.

Coach Kyndall White's 19-21 EMCC Lions will travel to Perkinston this weekend to take on the second-seeded and nationally third-ranked Lady Bulldogs of Mississippi Gulf Coast in a best-of-three playoff series.  First pitch for Friday's single game is set for 6 p.m., while Saturday's action is slated to begin at 1 p.m.  A third game, if needed, would follow at 3 p.m. on Saturday.  These two teams just met this past Saturday in Perkinston with Gulf Coast sweeping EMCC, 11-2 and 10-2, in a pair of run-rule contests.

Monday's opening game began with the visitors taking a 2-0 lead on Heath Griffith's two-out solo home run off EMCC starting pitcher Valiree Blair in the first followed by Erin Claire Stegall's two-out RBI single in the fourth.

The Lions tied the game in the home half of the fourth when Zoie LaVergne's lead-off double was followed by Blake Rigdon's triple and a run-scoring single by Mallory Vance.  EMCC took its first lead with two more runs the next frame off NWCC starter Tori Luke.  A single by LaVergne and Amandalyn Abney's double set the table for Rigdon's run-producing groundout and another RBI single from Vance.

Aided by an inning-opening infield error, the Rangers chased Blair in the sixth after back-to-back singles by Hailee Kolwyck and Stegall pulled the visitors to within a run with just one out.  That's when freshman right-hander Jordan Self came in to retire all five batters she faced and earn her first of two saves on the afternoon.

Out-hitting Northwest, 13-6, in the opener, the Lions featured two-hit efforts by Vance, Rigdon, LaVergne, Heather Abney and Emily Patrick.

In the circle for EMCC, Blair picked up her team-leading sixth win of the season by giving up the three runs on six hits over 5.1 innings before giving way to Self.

The Rangers again scored first in the nightcap by plating an unearned run in the top of the first.  EMCC answered by scoring a pair of runs in the third and fourth innings to stake starting pitcher Chandler Ellis to a 4-1 lead.  Rachel Rooney's one-out double in the third was followed by Vance's RBI triple and Sydney Olander's run-scoring single.  Kaitlyn Brannon capped the Lions' two-run fourth with a sacrifice fly.

The visitors chased Ellis in the fifth after getting the first two runners on base via an infield error and a walk.  Kolwyck and Avery McCullough each singled home a run later in the inning off LaVergne to cut the deficit to 4-3.

Northwest threatened again the next frame by opening the sixth with consecutive singles.  But, it was Self who once again came in to put out the fire by inducing a groundout to short and a pop-up behind home plate as well as benefitting from a base-running mistake by the visitors to end the inning.  Self, from Lanett, Alabama, then matched her opening-game feat by retiring the Rangers in order in the seventh to secure EMCC's sweep and collect her second save of the day.

One of a dozen East Mississippi sophomores recognized during pre-game festivities, Noxapater's Breanna Glass had two of the Lions' six hits in the nightcap to lead the way.