FULL COVERAGE: PRC rides Izzio’s grand slam past Pascagoula 7-1 in Game 3

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 26, 2017

CARRIERE — At first, Pearl River Central struggled to finish innings on a positive note against Pascagoula, trailing 1-0 through four innings. Each inning, PRC managed to get their leadoff batter on base and sneak him to second. But the Blue Devils couldn’t find that big hit to bring a run home.

The Blue Devils had two chances to even the game with a base runner waiting at third, but both times Pascagoula seemed to squeak in the final out to prevent PRC from leveling the game.

Nevertheless, just when things were not going PRC’s way, starting pitcher Hayden LeBeau hit possibly his most crucial hit of the season. LeBeau bunted the ball perfectly down the third base line to load the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fifth. The third time a PRC runner stood on third base seemed to be the charm Monday night as Austen Izzio stepped to the plate with one thing in mind.

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“I saw an opportunity to tie the game and I knew my teammates were counting on me,” Izzio said.

With a 1-2 count, Izzio swung and watched as the ball soared over the fence for a grand slam, mounting what he said was the biggest hit of his career. The hit put the Blue Devils up 4-1 in game three of the first round in the fifth inning.

“He hung me a curve ball and I hit it pretty well, but I thought it was a routine foul ball. Once I saw everyone get on their feet, I started to go crazy,” Izzio said, adding that this was his first home run of his entire career.

LeBeau also had a huge part in the success during game three, pitching for 11 strikeouts, limiting the Panthers to only three hits while walking two.

“[LeBeau] pitched a heck of a game tonight. We really needed him tonight and he shut ‘Goula down. I know that if he was pitching for the other team tonight I would not have hit that grand slam. He was lights out,” Izzio said.

In the top of the third, Pascagoula’s leadoff batter Zarin Cole hit a triple, but LeBeau struck out the next two batters.

“He never backed down and that attitude trickles down to the rest of the team, which really helped us get through this game,” PRC Head Coach Neil Walther said.

LeBeau is one of three seniors on the Blue Devils squad and said that this year he brought a different mentality through the playoffs.

“I didn’t want to get eliminated this soon; I really don’t want to get eliminated at all. If we continue to do what we have been doing and proving ourselves, we can go a long way. I am confident,” LeBeau said.

The senior south paw employed his trusty slider, which he said was the best it’s been all year Monday night.

“I love these guys. They play hard behind me and I play my best for them,” LeBeau said.

After Izzio’s grand slam, and an additional PRC run due to a wild Pascagoula pitch, another senior, Connor Holston was subbed in and helped his team clench a 7-1 victory with an RBI single that rounded two runs home in his first at bat in the sixth inning.

PRC is now 8-0 in game three’s in the post season under Walther.

“Our seniors are a huge part of our success. Cade, Hayden and Connor do a great job in leading this team,” Walther said. “All of these guys love each other. They hang out with each other and are true friends and I believe that helps in tight ball games. We’ve been blessed to have that for the past couple of years. It’s certainly the biggest reason for our success.”

PRC will advance to the second round of the 5A playoffs to face West Jones, a familiar post-season opponent. Last year, PRC lost 8-2 in the first game to the Mustangs in the quarterfinal series. However, with their back against the wall, PRC never lost sight of making it to the South State Championship, beating West Jones in the final two games of the series, 9-1 and 3-1.

This year, PRC hope for the same outcome as the best-of-three series begins at West Jones Friday at 7 p.m. Then, the Blue Devils will host West Jones for game two Saturday.

and if necessary, game three will be at West Jones Monday.