SCOOBA – The Lions of East Mississippi Community College closed out their home baseball slate on a positive note by earning a doubleheader split with Meridian Community College during Wednesday's MACJC conference action played at Gerald Poole Field. EMCC's 7-4 nightcap victory over the Eagles followed Meridian's 23-3 opening-game win over the Lions.
Following the lopsided opener, the Lions responded by taking an early 1-0 lead in the seven-inning second game on Dillon Brown's sacrifice fly in the second inning. After Meridian tied the game in the third with Mack Pickering's two-out, run-scoring single, the Lions used the home run ball to reclaim control of the contest.
In the bottom half of the third, sophomore Philip Martin launched a two-out, two-run homer to center field off Meridian starting pitcher Austin Huggins to put EMCC back in front to stay. The next frame, freshman Stuart Coggins led off the fourth with a solo blast of his own off Tyler Lantz. The Lions added another solo tally later in the inning on John Ross Briggs' two-out RBI single to lengthen their lead to 5-1.
EMCC continued to receive production from the lower third of its lineup by pushing across two more valuable insurance runs in the fifth inning. A two-out rally that began with a hit batsman and a walk was capped by consecutive run-producing singles from Reiley Tate and Briggs to extend the margin to 7-1.
After being limited to one run on three hits through the first five innings by EMCC starting pitcher Wesley Grantham, the Eagles' bats started to come back alive in the sixth when Kace Garner and Donovan Shows opened the inning with extra-base hits. Banks Tolley's RBI single along with back-to-back walks cut the deficit to 7-4 with the bases still loaded and only one out. The call to the bullpen went to EMCC ace Jaxen Forrester, who promptly snuffed out Meridian's rally attempt with clutch back-to-back strikeouts. The sophomore right-hander then added two more strikeouts the next frame to secure the twin-bill split for the Lions.
Offensively for the winners during the nightcap, Martin, Coggins and Briggs paced EMCC's nine-hit team effort with two hits apiece. Grantham, a sophomore left-hander out of Central Hinds Academy, improved his pitching record to 4-3 on the season with nine strikeouts in 5.1 innings of work.
The opening game began inauspiciously for the home-standing Lions with a pair of infield errors leading to four unearned runs in the first inning off starting pitcher Josh Smith.
A 5-1 game through three innings quickly became a one-sided contest during the middle portion of the scheduled nine-inning opener. The Eagles sent 15 and 14 batters, respectively, to the plate in producing consecutive nine-run explosions during the fourth and fifth innings. Keegan Westbrook's three-run homer highlighted Meridian's fourth inning and contributed to his seven-RBI performance.
Coach Brett Kimbrel's EMCC Lions, 9-26 overall and 6-16 in conference play, will close out the regular season with MACJC road trips to Southwest Mississippi (April 27), Northeast Mississippi (April 30) and Jones (May 3).