No. 7 Pearl River scores 17 in Opening Day sweep

Published 7:00 am Friday, February 5, 2021

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — The weather may have been cool Wednesday, but the Wildcats’ bats were not.

No. 7 Pearl River scored in bunches on Opening Day, sweeping East Central 8-5 and 9-1 at Dub Herring Park.

“I coached with Coach (Neal) Holliman and have a lot of respect for that ball club. I said before the game this would be the most prepared team you could play. I don’t know how many teams there are in junior college but I would have rather played just about any other one,” Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said. “We knew it was going to be a dog fight and that’s exactly how it played out in Game 1. I don’t think we played our best, but we played a lot better in Game 2. We took what they gave us and did some damage.”

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Due to the new Mississippi-only schedule, the first seven doubleheaders of the season count toward the Wildcats’ overall record but not their MACCC standings as they’re considered “non-conference” games. 

The Wildcats offense in Game 1 was powered by three former West Harrison products in Tate Parker (Gulfport; West Harrison), Kasey Donaldson (Gulfport; West Harrison) and Taylor Woodcock (Pass Christian; West Harrison).

Woodcock opened the scoring in the first with a solo blast over the left field wall.

“That first at-bat was really just personal to me,” Woodcock said. “I felt like I let the whole team down with that error in the first. I came in (to the dugout) and said ‘I got y’all, I got y’all right here.

“It was a tough at-bat. He had me 3-2 and I was just looking for something up to drive. That’s what I did. It felt really good.”

ECCC plated two runs in the top of the third to momentarily take a 2-1 lead.

Parker belted a two-run homer over the wall in right-center and then Donaldson sent a shot over the batter’s eye in center to extend PRCC’s lead to 4-2.

The Warriors tied the game up 4-4 in the sixth, but PRCC retook the lead in the seventh. Eric Newsom (Madison; Germantown) singled in a run and then Dalton Cummins (Seminary) delivered a two-run hit to push PRCC ahead 7-4.

Graham Crawford (Sumrall) singled in another run in the eighth to cap PRCC’s scoring.

Turner Swistak (Hattiesburg; Oak Grove) took the bump to open his collegiate debut. The freshman allowed two runs in four innings, striking out two against zero walks.

“One of the things I wrestled with all week was rather or not to start Swistak. He did exactly what I thought he would. I knew he could do it,” Avalon said. “He’s a strike thrower who competes. When you throw that first inning of opening day, that’s one of the toughest innings of the year and he came out there and threw strikes.”

Reid Reynolds (Heidelberg; Northeast Jones) earned the win in relief, allowing two runs (one earned) in three innings.

Landon Harper (Lauderdale; Northeast Lauderdale) closed out the game, allowing one run over the final two innings. 

Woodcock opened the scoring once again in Game 2, scoring on a series of ECCC miscues. Crawford got into the long ball action in the second inning, giving PRCC a 2-1 lead with a solo homer. 

“I was just looking for something to elevate, something to really get out front on, and I got a fastball,” Crawford said. 

Newsom followed up Crawford’s round-tripper with one of his own, banking the ball off the newly constructed dorm beyond the right field wall.

John Griffin Bell (Mobile, Ala.; Faith Academy) made the most of his first collegiate hit in the second, scoring Austen Izzio (Carriere; Pearl River Central) to extend PRCC’s lead to 4-1. Cummins scored on an error and then Parker tacked on a fifth run in the second inning with a groundout to give PRCC a 6-1 advantage.

Newsom tacked on a pair of runs in the fifth with a two-run double to left center. Cummins plated PRCC’s ninth run of the game with a single.

Landon Gartman (Bogue Chitto; Enterprise) got the Game 2 start and made the most of his opportunity, striking out six against three hits and one earned run to earn the run. 

“That’s Landon Gartman,” Avalon said. “He’s hopefully our No. 1 this year and showed you why tonight.”

Byrion Robinson (Brookhaven) threw a perfect inning in relief, striking out two. 

“He’s electric,” Avalon said. “When he comes in and commands the zone like that he’s going to be tough against anybody.”

Trace McNabb (Foxworth; West Marion) closed it out, pitching two scoreless innings. The right-hander struck out three against two hits and one walk.

“Coach (Brandon) Pennington does a great job with our guys. They work hard every day and you saw that today,” said Crawford, who caught all 16 innings. “They came out and pounded the zone and that’s all you can ask for.” 

Pearl River won’t have to travel far for its next doubleheader. The Wildcats visit Mississippi Gulf Coast Saturday for a 2 p.m. first pitch in Perkinston. The games will be broadcast on as well as

To help fans stay connected to the Wildcats this semester, Pearl River once again plans to stream all of its home events at Most events will be broadcast at but in some instances where multiple teams are at home, PRCC will also have a feed on its auxiliary channel at Fans who have Roku or Amazon Fire devices can also watch the Wildcats on their televisions by downloading the “Pearl River CC” channel from their app store.