FULL COVERAGE: PRC’s monster 7th inning rally carries them to the South State Championship

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, May 9, 2017

CARRIERE — From Eli Lee’s first swing of the quarterfinal series to teammate Caleb Tynes’ last, the Blue Devils never lost stride in its goal to sweep Long Beach, even when the team was down by three runs going into the bottom of the seventh inning in game two. However, PRC made all the right moves to pass Long Beach and advance to the South State Championship.

In warm-ups before the first game of the series, Lee cranked five balls over the Long Beach fence, providing a preview of his productive night at the plate.

On his first swing of the game, Lee hit the sweet spot, soaring a two-run home run over the tallest portion of the fence at center field to give PRC a lead that would continue in the early frames of Friday’s game at Long Beach.

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“I knew that if we started scoring early on it would be a good night for us, so I just tried to jump on them to get us going,” Lee said, finishing with two hits, the home run and a double for two RBIs.

Lee said his role on the team is to keep the morale high in the dugout and “go out there and do what I have to do” to get base hits and spark his team to victories.

PRC rallied behind his home run to score four more runs in the second inning, mounting a 6-0 lead that froze the Bearcats’ offense.

Blue Devils pitcher Hayden LeBeau shut out the Long Beach attack, conceding the first Bearcat hit in the bottom of the fourth while tallying seven strikeouts in the first three innings before being replaced by Austin Dean.

After Long Beach linked three runs in the fourth, Dean elevated his performance, conceding only three hits, walking two and striking out three batters, including the final two batters of the game, to rout Long Beach 10-3.

Despite having command throughout Friday’s bout, PRC Head Coach Neil Walther had to pull every string to get a win Saturday for game two, debuting two pitchers, junior Blake Craft and sophomore starting catcher Hayden Dunhurst, in a dramatic 6-5 victory.

At first, sloppy defense and inconsistent batting limited PRC’s approach. However, Tynes sparked confidence for PRC, starting a rally with a two-run RBI single in the sixth inning.

After conceding a run in the top of the seventh, it seemed the game was in the bag for Long Beach, but PRC’s Austen Izzio tripled in the final inning to drive two runs home, bringing PRC one run away from tying the game with no outs. Succeeding Izzio was Dunhurst, who finessed an RBI single over second base to tie the game 5-5.

And then, Lee, Connor Holston and Josh Kennedy all hit singles to fill the bases for Tynes, who pounded a hanging pitch in the zone for a walk-off single, finishing an astounding seventh inning rally to send the Blue Devils to the South State Championship for the second consecutive year.

“Coach Bob always says, ‘you don’t have to be better, you just have to be tougher.’ And that’s what this game came down to. We fought harder and came out on top,” Tynes said, after receiving a Gatorade shower from his teammates.

Tynes, who started the PRC rally in game two as well as finishing it, ended with two hits for three RBIs. Izzio tripled for two RBIs in game two while earning one hit for an RBI in game one. In the series, Dunhurst finished with three hits for three RBIs.

Pearl River Central will travel to Hattiesburg Thursday for game one of the South State Championship. First pitch will be at 7 p.m.