DECATUR – A two-run home run by Trent Waddell in the sixth inning of Friday's nightcap broke a scoreless tie and helped lift visiting East Mississippi Community College to a 6-4, 3-0 sweep over rival East Central Community College at the Clark/Gay Baseball Complex.
In a scheduled nine-inning contest to begin the day, the home-standing Warriors maintained a 4-3 edge after three innings. In relief of freshman starter J'Daylin Jackson, fellow EMCC rookie pitcher Andrew Crane gave the visitors a boost in the third when he got Hunter Thrower to ground out to short with the bases loaded and end the threat of any possible further damage caused earlier by two infield errors by the Lions.
Following three scoreless innings for both teams, the Lions reclaimed the lead in the seventh. EMCC loaded the bases on back-to-back singles from LeDarious Clark and Colton Caver along with a walk to Waddell. After Tyler Odom earned a bases-loaded walk to tie the game, Chase Reeves gave the visitors the lead for good with a sacrifice fly to center field.
With Crane throwing five shutout innings in relief to shut down the East Central offense, the Lions added an insurance run in the eighth when catcher Dylan Vuncannon was hit by a pitch to open the frame. Courtesy runner Brandon Acker was moved into scoring position by a Kyle Liberto sacrifice bunt and then came around to score EMCC's sixth run on Chase Nyman's RBI single.
Crane, an all-state product from Pascagoula High School, scattered four hits while striking out four and walking two to move to 2-0 on the season. Sophomore Conner Burton, from East Webster High School, struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to nail down his second save of the year.
Offensively in the opener, East Mississippi's 10-hit effort was paced by Caver, Nyman and Blake Key with two hits apiece.
Base hits didn't come easy for the Lions in the nightcap, as they were held hitless through the first five innings by East Central freshman right-hander Ryan Ward. Battling on the mound for the visitors, starter Chase Cameron pitched shutout baseball into the fifth inning before giving way to Hunter Graham. With the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth, Graham proved clutch by fanning cleanup hitter Cody Daigle to preserve the scoreless pitching duel between the two rival clubs.
The Lions used that momentum to finally break the ice against the Warriors in the top of the sixth. Clark, the nation's No. 40 junior college baseball prospect as rated by scouting service Perfect Game, proved his worth by leading off the frame with a single. The former all-state standout at Southeast Lauderdale High School then stole second and advanced to third on an error. Two batters later, Waddell, a Tuscaloosa native, deposited Ward's 3-1 pitch over the right-field wall for his second home run of the season and sixth of his EMCC career.
EMCC tacked on an insurance run the following frame when both Clark and Caver battled back from 0-2 counts to draw consecutive bases on balls and force in the team's third tally of the contest.
Meanwhile on the mound, the Lions collectively utilized five pitchers in the nightcap to keep the Warriors off the scoreboard. Graham's two-thirds of an inning gave way to successive one-batter situational efforts from relievers Brock McKnight and Hunter Floyd, who both enticed fly balls to the outfield in the sixth. Sophomore closer Hunter Swart, a Nanih Waiya High School product, then pitched an effective seventh inning to collect his fourth save of the year and secure EMCC's initial shutout victory of the campaign.
Winners of eight of their last nine outings, head coach Chris Rose's 9-3 EMCC Lions return home to play host to rival Meridian Community College Tuesday afternoon on the Scooba campus. First pitch for Tuesday's twin bill is set for 1 p.m. at EMCC's Gerald Poole Field.