No. 7 Pearl River finds two very different ways to walk-off Southwest

Published 7:00 am Thursday, February 25, 2021

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — No. 7 Pearl River found two very different ways to walk-off Southwest on Tuesday at Dub Herring Park.

After run-ruling SMCC for a 17-9 victory in seven innings to open the doubleheader. The Wildcats then had to rally late, plating two runs in the final inning for an 8-7 victory.

“That was about as ugly of two wins as you can find, but they’re still pretty wins,” Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said. “We have had six games in five days so our guys are running on empty. We didn’t play our best and we know that but I’m just proud that we battled.”

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The Wildcats powered their offense in Game 1 with five home runs from four different batters.

Matt Mercer (Petal) opened the offense with a three-run bomb in the second. Kasey Donaldson (Gulfport; West Harrison) added to PRCC’s lead in the sixth with a three-run homer of his own. In the fourth, Graham Crawford (Hattiesburg; Sumrall) gave PRCC an 8-0 lead with a two-run homer. PRCC plated two more runs in the inning on a passed ball and an error.

Southwest came roaring back in the top of the fifth, plating seven runs.

Tate Parker (Gulfport; West Harrison) came up big in the bottom of the fifth, sticking the ball in the left field corner for a two-run double. Von Seibert (Mobile, Ala.; Daphne) later mashed a two-out, two-run homer over the right field wall to extend PRCC’s lead to 14-7. D.K. Donaldson (Gulfport; West Harrison), pinch hitting for his brother, singled up the middle to plate another run for the 15-7 advantage.

After Southwest got a run back in the top of the sixth, the Wildcats’ Kris Jones (Hattiesburg; Oak Grove) singled up the middle with two outs to plate PRCC’s 16th run of the game. SMCC got a run back in the seventh, but Seibert belted his second home run of the game to not only walk-off the Bears 17-9 but also tie Parker for the NJCAA Division II lead in home runs with seven.

D.K. Donaldson, Mercer and Crawford all tied for the team lead in hits with two apiece, with Seibert, Mercer and Kasey Donaldson tying for the RBI lead with three apiece. Seibert scored a team-high four times.

Jacob Scherer (Mandeville, La.; St. Paul’s) earned the win, striking out six against two walks and two hits in four scoreless frames. 

“He’s a winner and he’s tough. He’s battle tested. He didn’t have his best stuff against Jones and he understood that. He made some adjustments this week, we worked with him and within three days he was a totally different pitcher,” Avalon said. “Obviously he could have thrown a fifth inning, but we wanted to get some other guys work.”

Landon Rawson (Kosciusko; Central Holmes Academy) and Trace McNabb combined to pitch an inning before Shelby Terrell (Foxworth; West Marion) finished the game, striking out four in two innings.

Trailing 1-0 early, Taylor Woodcock (Pass Christian; West Harrison) manufactured the tying run. After working a walk, Woodcock stole second and later stole third and then came around to score on a wild pitch.

With the bases loaded later in the inning, Seibert came across for the go-ahead 2-1 run on a passed ball.

The Bears got back on the board in the second with two runs. The visitors could have extended their lead with the bases loaded but reliever Reid Reynolds (Heidelberg; Northeast Jones) induced a 4-6-3 double play to get out of the jam with a 3-2 deficit.

Jones got in on the long ball action in the second, launching his first homer of the season to lead off the frame and tie the game 3-3.

The Bears got runners on the corners in the third but Reynolds got a big strikeout and then a weak grounder to get out of the frame unscathed.

Dalton Cummins (Seminary) fought off a couple tough pitches and then singled to right, scoring Austen Izzio (Carriere; Pearl River Central) from second for the 4-3 lead in the third.

SMCC tied the game on a fielder’s choice and then went ahead 5-4 later in the fourth on a single through the right side. Southpaw Ryan Burt (Columbus; New Hope) then induced a grounder to Woodcock, who turned a double play to get out of the jam.

Donaldson hit a high pop up down the third base line in the bottom of the fourth and the Bears couldn’t handle the ball, allowing Parker to score from third and tie the game. After a series of miscues on the play, Donaldson reached third base and then came around for the go-ahead 6-5 run on a wild pitch.

The Bears continued the seesaw, hitting a two-run homer in the top of the fifth to go back ahead 7-6.

With one out in the bottom of the seventh, John Griffin Bell (Mobile, Ala.; Faith Academy) tied the game on a deep fly ball to center that allowed Cummins to tag and score from third.

Jones advanced to third base on the play, setting the stage for late-game heroics from Woodcock.

Facing a 1-2 count, Woodcock lofted a ball to shallow left field. The ball hit the grass well in front of the left fielder, allowing Jones to easily score and inciting the PRCC dugout to pour onto the field in celebration. 

“I stayed locked in,” Woodcock said. “I told J.G. that if he didn’t get it done I would. When he hit the fly it took a little pressure off of me so when I came to the plate a little more relaxed than you would think I might be. 

“I got it done and I’m proud.”

Izzio, Cummins and Jones led PRCC with two hits apiece. Jones tallied two of PRCC’s three extra-base hits on his homer and a double.

“I just had a gut feeling with him. I got up this morning, came to the field and he’s in there hitting extra. I’ve been on him about maturing and understanding that, I believe it was Coach (Tony) Robichaux who said ‘you work while you wait.’ I wanted to reward him. That home run he hit was huge and then he hit a double late,” Avalon said. “We have guys who sit the bench who can play on a lot of teams in our league. He’s one of them and I’m glad he’s a Wildcat.”

Eric Newsom (Madison; Germantown), Reynolds and Burt combined to pitch the first five innings. Byrion Robinson (Brookhaven) came up huge to earn his first career win. The southpaw threw two scoreless innings, striking out three.

“He just keeps getting better and better and better,” Avalon said. “The sky is the limit for him. He has a chance to baseball for a long time if he gets more consistent.” 

Prior to the game, Pearl River held a moment of silence for former Wildcat Justin Demary, who passed away recently. Demary was a member of the Wildcats from 2014-16. Former teammates Brandon Pennington, who is PRCC’s pitching coach, and Derrick Mount, who is an assistant at SMCC, placed his No. 6 jersey on the pitcher’s mound during the ceremony. 

Prior to the game, the league announced Parker was named the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference Player of the Week

The honor comes after Parker hit .636 over four games, collecting three homers, four RBIs and nine runs scored as PRCC split with both Jones College and Meridian.