SCOOBA – The seventh-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College successfully opened the second rotation of the MACJC North Division baseball slate by sweeping 16th-ranked Mississippi Delta in a pair of one-run decisions, 5-4 and 6-5, Wednesday evening at EMCC's Gerald Poole Field.
Now 24-8 overall and 11-3 within the division, head coach Chris Rose's EMCC Lions continue their busy stretch of playing four doubleheaders in six days by taking on Holmes Thursday afternoon in Goodman before heading to Clarksdale for a Saturday twin bill at Coahoma. East Mississippi is also scheduled to play a Monday road doubleheader against Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa.
In Wednesday's opening game against Delta, the two teams traded solo runs in the first inning. After the visitors opened the scoring on Carson Crites' RBI single, the Lions responded in dramatic fashion in the bottom half of the frame. Following his one-out walk, LeDarious Clark moved to third on Chase Reeves' grounder to first base. With runners on the corners, Clark then raced to the plate for a rare steal of home off Delta starting pitcher Tre Hobbs.
The Lions took a brief 2-1 lead in the second on Chase Nyman's two-out single, before the Trojans squared the contest at 2-2 in the fourth inning on a sharply hit bases-loaded single by Tyler Mize that hit high off the elevated left-field wall allowing only one run to score. Inheriting a bases-loaded situation from EMCC starting pitcher J'Daylin Jackson with just one out, fellow freshman left-hander Tyler Young squelched the potential big inning for Delta by getting Peyton Callahan to pop out and Jacob Shempert to ground out.
The sixth inning of the scheduled nine-inning contest proved to be the decisive frame in game one. After the visitors manufactured two go-ahead runs off Young without the luxury of a hit in the top half of the inning, the Lions parlayed a couple of Delta errors and three singles into three unearned runs to account for the final 5-4 outcome. Perhaps the most critical miscue for the Trojans took place when Shempert overran Kyle Liberto's single to left field allowing two runs to score and moving Liberto into scoring position. Two batters later, Nyman drove in the eventual winning run with a two-out single.
Meanwhile on the mound, freshman right-hander Andrew Crane, of Pascagoula, threw three effective innings of two-hit, shutout baseball to register his second save of the season. After Jackson pitched the first 3 1/3 innings, Young tossed 2 2/3 innings of one-hit middle relief as the benefactor of his first collegiate pitching victory.
In the scheduled seven-inning nightcap, the lead changed hands three times through the opening three frames. The Lions went up 1-0 in the first when Clark reached on a bunt single and later scored after stealing second and third while coming home on a throwing error by the catcher. The Trojans answered with a pair of scores on three singles and a sacrifice fly in the second to take a brief 2-1 lead.
The two teams then traded three-run innings during their respective next at-bats. First, EMCC reclaimed the lead at 4-2 with three runs in the bottom of the second. Courtesy runner Hunter Floyd scored on a wild pitch between Nyman's RBI single and Chase Reeves' run-producing groundout. The Trojans answered by chasing Liberto, EMCC's starting pitcher, in the third. After surrendering a lead-off home run to Chase Palasini and later allowing a pair of two-out base runners, Liberto was lifted in favor of Tyler Odom. Odom, the starting second baseman for the Lions, was promptly greeted with a first-pitch, two-run double off the bat of Colby Maner to put Delta back on top by a 5-4 score. Despite loading the bases with two subsequent walks, Odom escaped further damage by getting Mize to fly out to left field to end the inning.
Following the nine combined runs scored through the first three innings, Odom and his mound counterpart, Delta freshman sidearmer Drew Pellum, engaged in a mid-game pitching duel. Settling in nicely after a shaky entrance, Odom proceeded to face the minimum 12 batters over the closing four innings to help set up the Lions' comeback effort over the final two frames. In 4 1/3 innings of relief work, Odom, out of Oak Grove High School, gave up just the one hit while striking out three and walking two to even his pitching record at 1-1 on the year.
EMCC tied the nightcap at 5-all in the sixth when Brandon Acker drew a bases-loaded walk on a full count with two outs to force home Nyman, who had led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch. Though they left potential go-ahead runs on base in the sixth, the Lions bounced right back to begin their game-winning rally the following frame with another lead-off hit batsman. After Liberto got plunked by Delta reliever Matt Ray to lead off the seventh, Nyman followed with a one-out single and stole second. Clark was then intentionally walked to load the bases with only one out. Though hitless on the night, Reeves came through in the clutch with a game-winning sacrifice fly to right field to complete the sweep and improve EMCC's home record to 13-1 on the season.