PRC prepares for first State Championship trip after beating Tigers 7-4

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, May 16, 2017

HATTIESBURG — Mother’s Day came early for one Pearl River Central mom as Hayden Dunhurst dedicated his 400-foot home run ball from game three to his mother. The hit carried the Devils to uncharted territory, becoming South State Champions for the first time in school history Saturday night.

“My mother is my rock. She is such a hard worker, from practically raising herself growing up to raising her own family,” Dunhurst said. “She motivates [the family] to do everything to our best ability and to never quit on ourselves. She loves us and we put God first. God is in the glory whether we win or lose.”

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In game two of the South State Championship series Friday, PRC was in a must-win scenario after giving up eight runs in the last half of the seventh inning in game one. Instead of sulking from the loss, the Blue Devils came to play as Dunhurst hit a three-run home run to end the game due to the 10-run mercy rule, capping a 12-2 victory at home Friday.

Then, Dunhurst repeated his performance Saturday, this time cranking a three-run home run over the right field wall in the third inning, after a sacrifice fly in the first from Eli Lee, to start with a 4-0 lead in the South State Championship final.

PRC remained in the driver’s seat throughout Saturday’s game three, making defensive plays behind senior pitcher Cade Lee, In response to a stunning 9-8 defeat in game one, Cade Lee said game three served as a time for redemption.

“I partially took the blame for that loss because of the last play, so I knew that I needed to come back and redeem myself on this field by doing everything I could to throw strikes and get our team to where we deserve,” Cade Lee said.

And from the first pitch to the last, Cade Lee delivered for the Blue Devils, cashing in for five strikeouts while walking only two Tiger batters and allowing six hits for two earned runs.

However, after giving up two runs, Cade Lee strategically forced Hattiesburg pitcher Joe Gray to walk him with bases loaded to make the score 5-2 in the fifth inning.

After a Tigers’ pitcher change, PRC’s Zach Roussell singled for a two-run RBI to drive up the score 7-2. And then, the game was at a standstill until the bottom of the seventh inning on the Tigers’ field.

The last time these two teams squared off, an 8-run rally left the Blue Devils hanging their heads, and after Tigers’ Dexter Jordan singled his own two-run RBI, tension began to run across the PRC dugout. However, Cade Lee took it one pitch at a time before striking out the final batter to send Pearl River Central to its first baseball State Championship appearance and the school’s second in its entire athletic program history, PRC Head Coach Neil Walther said.

“This is a tribune to all of the prior great Blue Devil teams and coaches. When I got here, they had signs on the wall that said we made the playoffs, and that was a big deal. But for me, that’s not enough,” Walther said. “This isn’t just our win tonight; I am going to give it to people like Nick Newman, Cody Miller, Dylan Spiers, Aaron Lee and all those guys that were before me because they helped this program through the entire process.”

As South State Champions, Pearl River Central will travel to Pearl Tuesday to take on Oxford in the 5A State Championship series at Trustmark Park. First pitch is scheduled to be at 7 p.m. Game two of the series will be played Friday at 1 p.m.