SCOOBA – The fifth-ranked Lions of East Mississippi Community College maintained a one-game lead atop the MACJC North Division baseball standings by earning a Friday evening split with visiting Northwest Mississippi Community College at Gerald Poole Field. After dropping a 4-2 decision in the 10-inning opener, EMCC bounced back with an 8-2 nightcap victory over the Rangers.
With Friday's split, the 28-10 EMCC Lions sit at 15-5 in division play and will enter the final week of the regular season one full game ahead of second-place Northeast Mississippi (22-16, 14-6). Northwest Mississippi follows close behind with a 14-8 division mark and 26-14 overall record.
Rebounding from their 4-2 setback in Friday's opener on Taylor King's two-run home run in the 10th inning, the home-standing Lions capitalized on a pair of Northwest infield errors in the third inning of game two to break a 2-2 tie. EMCC answered the Rangers' two-run first with a pair of scores in the home half without the luxury of a hit. Chase Nyman led off the inning with a walk, stole second and moved to third on an infield out before crossing home plate on Chase Reeves' sacrifice fly. Tyler Odom then drew a two-out walk and advanced around the bases on three subsequent wild pitches by NWCC starting pitcher Cody Waddell.
Two innings later, the Lions assumed the lead for good with their three-run third. Following Dylan Vuncannon's leadoff infield single, Nyman and LeDarious Clark both reached base on consecutive misplayed grounders by Northwest's middle infielders. Odom increased the EMCC lead to 5-2 with a two-run double to right-center field.
Meanwhile on the mound for EMCC, freshman left-hander J'Daylin Jackson settled down after allowing three hits and two runs over the first two innings. The former St. Joseph Catholic School standout retired 10 consecutive batters before handing the ball to closer Conner Burton with two outs in the fifth inning.
Jackson left the game with a 6-2 lead after Nyman's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fourth. The Lions added a pair of additional runs the next frame on Colton Caver's bases-loaded single that greeted Northwest reliever Colin Liles. Caver had two of EMCC's five hits in the nightcap.
In his 4 2/3 innings of work, Jackson gave up just four hits while striking out three and not issuing a walk to improve to 7-1 on the year and become EMCC's first seven-game winner since 2008. Burton, out of East Webster High School, locked down the victory by allowing just one hit with three strikeouts over the final 2 1/3 innings.
The scheduled nine-inning opener featured outstanding pitching performances from EMCC's Joshua Griffis and Northwest's Domenick Carlini before needing an extra frame to decide the outcome. Northwest opened the scoring with a solo tally in the first when James Lear led off with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice, stole third and then scored on Jay King's sacrifice fly. The Lions initially tied the game in the fourth after Reeves led off the inning with his second double of the game and came around to score on back-to-back groundouts to first base.
After the visitors reclaimed the lead with a run in the fifth, East Mississippi pulled even again at 2-2 with an unusual equalizer in the sixth when Reeves was hit by a pitch and then proceeded to advance to home on three separate wild pitches.
Griffis and Carlini were equally superb in their respective no-decision efforts. Griffis, a sophomore left-hander for the Lions, threw 133 pitches during his 8 2/3 innings of work. The native Floridian allowed just two runs on four hits while fanning seven and walking two before leaving the game in the ninth inning. Griffis' southpaw counterpart, Carlini threw 124 pitches during his eight-inning stint, scattering eight hits and allowing two runs with eight strikeouts and no walks.
After leaving the bases loaded the previous inning, Northwest made amends in the decisive 10th inning. Following Kramer Hollenbach's one-out single, Taylor King drilled a two-run home run over the left-field wall off EMCC reliever Andrew Crane (4-1) for the eventual game-winner. Tyler Scholl worked the final two scoreless innings to earn the win for the Rangers.
Bidding for their first MACJC North Division baseball title since 1998, head coach Chris Rose's EMCC Lions conclude the regular-season slate during the coming week with a Wednesday doubleheader at Itawamba followed by a crucial Saturday home twin bill against Northeast Mississippi.