No. 4 Gulf Coast stages pair of improbable comebacks
PERKINSTON — In a season filled with improbable and near-impossible comebacks, No. 4 Mississippi Gulf Coast added two more for posterity Thursday in a showdown with No. 6 Copiah-Lincoln.
In both games, the Bulldogs lost leads in the top of the seventh and won it in the bottom. K.K. Agner’s two-run double clinched a 5-4 win in the opener, and Alexis Laughlin’s dying quail of a single to center put a four-run deficit in the rear-view and won it 9-8.
“We’ve been in a slump, but it’s really just the fight. It really brought us back together. This shows that we still have it and we can do it.”
Gulf Coast (26-10, 22-4 MACCC) moved into second place in the conference with two games left. To finish atop the standings and host the state tournament, the Bulldogs must beat Mississippi Delta twice on Sunday and have Itawamba (31-5, 23-3) lose twice to Meridian on Tuesday.
Gulf Coast was one strike away from winning the first game 4-3 when Carlon Brabham hit her second homer of the game, a two-run shot, on an 0-2 pitch.
Laughlin led off the bottom of the seventh with a single, and after a strikeout, Rakeya Travis (So., Poplarville/Poplarville) singled to put runners at first and second for Agner (Fr., Horn Lake/Magnolia Heights)
“I wasn’t trying to hit it hard; I was just trying to make contact,” Agner said. “I was trying to get the runs in. It hit perfectly in the gap.”
She sliced a ball into the right-center field gap and it one-hopped the wall. Laughlin scored easily from second, and Travis streaked all the way from first for the game-winner.
Travis had three hits, and Agner had two. Emaleigh Coates picked up another win to move to 4-1 in her last five starts in addition to a save Tuesday.
“It’s unbelievable,” Long said. “It’s exciting to be a part of, but you see it’s not the same person every time. It’s different people doing it. We don’t ever count ourselves out, and that’s a big deal.”
Kristian Jones (Fr., Southaven/DeSoto Central) staked the Bulldogs to a 3-0 in the first inning of the nightcap with a three-run homer.
Co-Lin would tie it in the fifth before Caroline Moore’s RBI single made it 4-3 in the sixth.
Once again, the Bulldogs couldn’t protect a one-run lead in the seventh and gave up what seemed like an impossible-to-surmount five runs.
Jones singled to lead off the seventh, and Agner mashed a homer that cut the deficit in half.
Briana Shores (So., Richland/Richland) singled, and Grace Allgood (Fr., Hurley/East Central) pinch-ran for her.
Aislynn Andrews (Fr., Poplarville/Poplarville) dropped a perfectly-place bunt that died in the dust in front of the batter’s box. The catcher fielded it and whipped a throw into right field. After a staredown with the right fielder, Allgood took off for third and drew a throw that also went wild.
By the time Co-Lin had recovered it, the score was 8-7 with Andrews dancing a jig on third base. Breanna Green (Fr., Saraland, Ala./Saraland) smashed a hot shot past the third baseman and it was tied.
Sarah Brannan (So., Enterprise/Enterprise) walked, and two batters later Laughlin launched her fourth single of the game to win it.
“I was just trying to make contact,” she said. “I kept hitting ground balls, so I was trying to hit something in the gap. It was dying, but I thought I hit it too hard. She was coming in, and when I saw it miss her glove, I was so excited.”
Agner had three hits in the nightcap, and Anna Avant (So., Water Valley/Water Valley) got the win after getting the final two outs of the seventh.
The Bulldogs will add these to an already long ledger of comebacks this season:
- Down 7-4 in the bottom of the seventh against San Jacinto-South on Jan. 22, Gulf Coast scored three times to force extra innings, then scored three times in the bottom of the ninth to win 11-10.
- Down 7-1 in the sixth against Northwest Florida State on Feb. 2, the Bulldogs scored six times in the bottom of the inning, then gave up two in the seventh before scoring twice to win 10-9.
- Down 5-3 to Northeast Mississippi on Feb. 27, the Bulldogs scored three times in the bottom of the seventh to win 6-5.
- On March 18, Gulf Coast was down 9-2 and scored seven times in the bottom of the second to tie, then fell behind 16-9 in the third. The Bulldogs score four in the third and two in the fourth to make it 16-15, then gave up two in the fifth. Gulf Coast scored four times in the fifth and went on to win 19-18.
“This team has got a lot of confidence,” Long said. “When they get behind, they don’t care. They’ve got confidence and swag, and they believe in themselves. It’s great to watch and great to be a part of.”
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