No. 7 Pearl River earns rivalry sweep of Gulf Coast

Published 7:00 am Friday, March 12, 2021

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — No. 7 Pearl River found two different ways to sweep archrival Gulf Coast on Wednesday at Dub Herring Park. After rallying late to claim a pitcher’s duel in the opener 2-1 in 10 innings. Pearl River then put together two huge innings in Game 2 to take a 10-6 victory and secure the second sweep of MGCCC on the season.

“I’m proud of our guys,” Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said. “This is a rivalry series for us. Those guys threw their best punch at us and I was proud that we handled it and found a way to win two games.”

The Wildcats (14-4 overall; 4-2 MACCC) and Bulldogs (8-8; 5-3) were locked in a pitcher’s duel in Game 1, with reigning Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference Pitcher of the Week Landon Gartman (Bogue Chitto; Enterprise) turning in his best performance of the season.

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Despite surrendering MGCCC’s lone run of the game in the third on a balk, the Memphis signee allowed minimal traffic on the basepaths. In seven innings of work, MGCCC was only able to muster four hits and a walk. Gartman, in turn, struck out a career-high 11.

“What a special day he had — and in back-to-back starts,” Avalon said. “That was the challenge before the game. I told him to forget about the past when you’re struggling but you also have to forget your success because that stuff doesn’t matter when you’re in it today. He was big-time.”

The Bulldogs looked to add to their lead in the eighth, advancing two runners into scoring position. Right-handed flame-thrower Landon Harper (Meridian; Northeast Lauderdale) slammed the door, however, with a big punchout to end the threat.

Pearl River scratched out the tying run in the ninth. Von Seibert (Daphne, Ala.) led off the frame with a ground rule double and then came around to score on a double from Kasey Donaldson (Gulfport; West Harrison).

“Who doesn’t want to hit in that situation? You come up to bat with a big play on the line and just have to do something with it,” Seibert said.

After a scoreless top of the 10th, the Wildcats went to work in the bottom half of the inning. Graham Crawford (Hattiesburg; Sumrall) worked a one-out walk and then stole second base. Seibert then blasted a 2-2 pitch to the right-center gap, scoring the Wildcat catcher and prompting the PRCC dugout to spill onto the field in jubilation.

“They kept battling,” Avalon said. “It wasn’t pretty but I think we only had five strikeouts in 10 innings against a good arm. We squared some balls up and hit ‘em right at them and that’s baseball. 

“I was really proud of the way we battled. That’s a big win for us to be down and win in extra innings.”

Harper earned the win in relief, tossing three scoreless innings with a career-best six strikeouts.

“I just go out there each time out and try to be very consistent, compete for my team and do my thing,” Harper said. 

The Wildcats only mustered five hits in the game, with both of Seibert’s coming in the form of doubles.

Tate Parker (Gulfport; West Harrison) and Eric Newsom (Madison; Germantown) both walked twice. 

The Wildcats didn’t wait until the late innings to jump on MGCCC in the nightcap. Pearl River worked the visitors in the first to jump out to a 4-0 lead.

Seibert opened the scoring after being plunked with the bases loaded. After Crawford scored on a passed ball, Parker scored on a Matt Mercer (Petal) sacrifice.

An RBI-single from Donaldson capped the scoring in the inning.

PRCC starter Sam Hill (Soso; West Jones) worked into — and out of — trouble in the fourth. MGCCC singled in a run in the frame but the freshman right-hander struck out the side — including a big punchout with the bases loaded.

The Bulldogs chased the PRCC starter in the fifth and ultimately plated four runs in the frame to jump ahead of the Wildcats 5-4.

The Wildcats tied the game back up in the bottom of the inning on an infield single by Donaldson to the right side that allowed Crawford to race home. 

A huge sixth from the Wildcats removed any doubt in the game as PRCC plated five runs — all with two outs.

Parker started the big frame when he was plunked, scoring pinch runner Nick Skaggs (Biloxi). Seibert walked plating PRCC’s seventh run. The Bulldogs then booted a ball from Mercer, scoring Crawford. A Donaldson single and Skaggs walk tacked on two more runs.

The Bulldogs got a run back in the seventh but the Wildcats shut the door to ensure their second sweep of MGCCC on the season.

Donaldson led PRCC with a 3-for-4 performance. His three RBIs were also a team-high. Crawford, who finished 2-for-3, also scored three times.

Hill struck out seven in four innings, surrendering three runs (two earned) on five hits and one walk.

“Sam was solid,” Avalon said. “He can still get better and will. But the bottom line is every time that dude goes out there he gives us a chance to win. That’s what you need.”

Trace McNabb (Foxworth; West Marion) surrendered two runs in one inning before Dakota Lee (Purvis) finished out the game, striking out five in two innings.

“Dakota was really special,” Avalon said. 

The Wildcats are back in action Saturday with a noon start at Coahoma. PRCC is back home next Tuesday against Copiah-Lincoln. First pitch is set for 3 p.m.