SCOOBA – In their first game action in nearly two weeks due to rain and wet field conditions throughout the region, the Lions of East Mississippi Community College split an eventful home baseball doubleheader with East Central Community College Friday afternoon at Gerald Poole Field. After a series of comebacks resulted in a dramatic 18-17 walk-off victory for EMCC in the opener, the Warriors earned the split with a 15-3 run-rule win in the nightcap.
In an opening contest that featured 35 runs, 34 hits, 21 walks and eight home runs surrendered by 10 combined pitchers between the two teams, it was Austin Beech's walk-off, two-out RBI hit to the opposite field on a 3-2 pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning that closed out the memorable slugfest.
The climactic comeback began after East Central scored six runs in the top of the seventh to take a 17-15 lead into the final frame. Following a lead-off strikeout, ECCC's Tanner Knight gave up back-to-back solo blasts to Dillon Morgan and Zarin Cole to tie the score at 17-all. Freshman shortstop Tyler Miller then started a two-out rally with an infield hit in front of Jeremy Davis' pinch-hit double down the right-field foul line to set up Beech's game-winning hit.
EMCC bounced back from an initial 5-0 deficit by scoring six runs in the bottom of the second on Philip Martin's grand slam followed three batters later by Morgan's two-run homer – his first of four hits in the game.
By scoring in each of their first five at-bats, the Warriors moved back ahead 11-7 with three runs in the fifth on George Farid's three-run home run. That lead was short-lived, however, as the Lions batted around in the bottom half of the fifth. Aided by four walks by ECCC pitchers in the inning, Miller ignited EMCC's eight-run fifth with a two-run homer and then capped the rally with a two-run single.
Trailing 15-11, the visitors responded two innings later by batting through the lineup in the seventh to reclaim the lead. The benefactor of some wildness by Lion pitching and a two-run shot by Dakota Kennedy in the inning, East Central scored six times to take back the lead at 17-15.
Following a scoreless eighth inning, sophomore left-hander Garrett Brown – EMCC's fifth pitcher of the game - retired the side in order in the top of the ninth to set up the Lions' dramatic comeback in the bottom half of the inning.
Morgan, a product of Harrison Central High School, powered EMCC's 20-hit attack by going 4-for-5 at the plate, including two homers, with four RBIs and four runs scored. Miller, a 23rd-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates a year ago out of Spanish Fort, Ala., went 3-for-6 with four runs batted in, while Gulfport's Dillon Brown also had three hits in the opener.
In sharp contrast to the opener, East Mississippi's bats were silenced in the nightcap, as East Central hurlers Javian Stone and Evan Keith combined to strike out 13 Lion batters while allowing just two third-inning hits over five innings. The Warriors broke open a tight 4-3 contest by sending 15 batters to the plate during a nine-run fourth inning en route to earning the doubleheader split. The big hits in the game-deciding frame were two-run doubles by Alex Hay and Anderson Shelley.
Coach Brett Kimbrel's 3-7 EMCC Lions are scheduled to travel to Tuscaloosa for a Tuesday road doubleheader at Shelton State Community College beginning at 4 p.m.