MERIDIAN – In closing out their pre-division baseball slate, the 16th-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College split with rival Meridian Community College Saturday afternoon at Scaggs Field. After claiming an 11-5 win in the opener, EMCC fell 15-12 to the home-standing Eagles during the high-scoring nightcap.
The visitors got off to a shaky start by allowing three unearned runs in the bottom of the first with the Lions committing a pair of costly infield errors. Following scoreless innings in the first and second, EMCC's offense got on track with runs in each of the last five frames. Aided by a Meridian miscue and a LeDarious Clark double, the Lions plated a pair of runs in the third and then manufactured a run the next inning to cut the deficit to 3-2.
With EMCC starting pitcher Kyle Liberto setting down the Eagles in order in the second and third innings and then getting out of a fourth-inning jam, the Lions benefitted from big hits over the final three innings to pull away for the 11-5 victory. Tyler Odom's two-run double in the fifth was followed by a bases-clearing single by Chase Reeves in the sixth and a three-run home run by Chase Nyman in the seventh.
Though Meridian managed to put up solo tallies in the fifth and seventh innings, Liberto was able to register his third complete game in four starts this season. The former Hancock High School standout improved to 3-1 on the year by scattering eight hits while striking out four and not issuing a walk during his seven innings of work on the mound.
With 10 hits as a team in the opener, the Lions received two-hit efforts at the plate by Nyman, Clark, Reeves and Odom.
The offensive momentum continued into the nightcap for the visitors, as the Lions sent 13 hitters to the plate in the top of the first in producing nine runs on eight hits. Highlighting EMCC's explosive opening frame were two-run, extra-base hits from Colton Caver, Blake Key and Clark.
Staked with an early 9-0 lead, EMCC starting pitcher Joshua Griffis struggled with control problems while also being hampered by a pair of infield errors during his short stint. As a result, the sophomore southpaw didn't make it out of the second inning after giving up six runs on two hits while walking three.
With the visitors still leading 9-6 after three innings, Brandon Acker's pinch-hit ground out with the bases full scored Trent Waddell. But that's all the Lions could muster in the top of the fourth despite loading the bases. The Eagles then proceeded to grab their first lead (11-10) of the second game by batting around in the bottom half of the inning to produce five runs on four hits.
After the Lions knotted the slugfest at 11-all with an unearned run in the fifth on Waddell's two-out RBI single, EMCC middle reliever Conner Burton struggled on the hill for the first time this season. Having picked up three saves and a win during his first five successful appearances of the year, the sophomore right-hander gave up six runs on five hits, including three more runs in the fifth, to get pinned with the loss.
The two teams then traded solo scores in their final respective at-bats to account for the 15-12 comeback victory by Meridian.
Out-hitting the Eagles, 16-11, in the nightcap, EMCC had five players with multiple-hit efforts at the plate. Caver went 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles, while Key was 3-for-3 with a two-run triple. Clark, Reeves and Waddell all added two hits apiece for East Mississippi in the second game.
Coach Chris Rose's 13-5 EMCC Lions begin MACJC North Division competition by playing host to the Bulldogs of Holmes Community College in a 4 p.m. Wednesday doubleheader at Gerald Poole Field on the Scooba campus.