PERKINSTON – The East Mississippi Community College softball team saw its 2016 campaign draw to a close this past weekend in getting swept at third-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in an MACJC best-of-three playoff series. After getting run-ruled 11-2 during Friday night's opener, the Lions battled to the end before dropping a 4-1 decision to the Lady Bulldogs Saturday afternoon at Ross-Smith Field.
Finishing the year with a 19-23 overall record and 14-14 regular-season conference mark, EMCC rebounded from Friday's run-rule setback by engaging in a competitive contest on Saturday. The two teams traded first-inning solo tallies. As the designated visiting team, Gulf Coast took an early 1-0 lead when Deborah Elmore's sacrifice fly brought home Kaitlin Lee, who led off the game with a triple. In the home half, Emily Patrick's two-out double drove home Marissa Landrum, who had walked, to tie the game.
After two EMCC errors contributed to an unearned Gulf Coast run in the second, the Lady Bulldogs scored what would be the game's last two runs on Izzy Werdann's two-out, two run single off EMCC starting pitcher Zoie LaVergne in the third.
From that point on, an old-fashioned pitching duel between LaVergne and MGCCC's Nora Keehn kept the game scoreless over the final four frames. LaVergne scattered six hits over 6.1 innings, while striking out four and walking four, in falling to 5-5 on the year. Keehn allowed just three hits, while fanning five, in the complete-game victory to improve to 13-1 for the season.
On Friday, the home-standing Lady Bulldogs opened the playoff series by pounding out 14 hits, including three home runs, off a trio of EMCC pitchers.
After Valerie Blair limited the first-inning damage to just a run following three straight singles off EMCC starting pitcher Chandler Ellis, the Lions took their only lead of the weekend on Blake Rigdon's two-out, two-run double off Lee in the second inning.
That lead didn't last long as Kelli Berry's two-run homer and Elmore's two-run triple off Blair in the home half of the second made it 5-2. Another four-run frame for Gulf Coast in the fourth was highlighted by Werdann's two-run blast off reliever Jordan Self.
With Lee not allowing another hit over the last three innings, MGCCC reached the eight-run mercy rule margin on Lexie Mathis' two-run shot off Self in the fifth inning. Lee improved to 21-1 on the season with the complete-game win.
The 43-3 Lady Bulldogs will take their 19-game winning streak into the MACJC State Softball Tournament, to be hosted this coming weekend (April 29-May 1) by fifth-ranked Jones County Junior College in Ellisville.