No. 2 Pearl River’s comeback bid falls just short

Published 7:00 am Friday, May 21, 2021

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — No. 3 Pearl River took No. 2 LSU Eunice down to the final out Wednesday but came up just short, falling 8-6 in Game 6 of the Region 23 Tournament at Dub Herring Park.

“I didn’t do a very good job of preparing our starting pitcher (Turner Swistak). That kid pitched his heart out. He wanted it, maybe a little too much, and I need to do a better job of helping him control that. He has won us a lot of ball games and that moment will make him a lot better,” Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said. “It was two good clubs and they just played better than we did.”

With the loss, Pearl River must turn around and play Meridian in an elimination game at noon. The winner advances to play Eunice at 7 p.m.

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“Hopefully we can learn from this very quickly and know that we need to control our emotions,” Avalon said. “We can’t want it too much. As a coach I have to do a better job of helping them with that.

“We have a quick turnaround so we need to flush it and move on. It will be tough, but there’s no question they can do it.”

Big innings hurt the Wildcats (35-8 overall) Top 3 showdown against the Bengals (44-5).

Eunice pounced on a pair of hit batters to open the second inning and ultimately scored five runs in addition to chasing PRCC’s starter in the process with a 5-0 lead.

Pearl River got two runners aboard in the bottom half of the frame courtesy of a Von Seibert (Mobile, Ala.; Daphne) leadoff walk and an Austen Izzio (Carriere; Pearl River Central) single, but it wasn’t until the third when PRCC finally broke through to make the game interesting. 

After reliever Shelby Terrell (Foxworth; West Marion) faced the minimum in the top of the third, the Wildcats went to work.

John Griffin Bell (Mobile, Ala.; Faith Academy) led off the frame by being plunked and eventually came around to score PRCC’s first run on a Nick Skaggs (Biloxi) groundout.

Graham Crawford (Hattiesburg; Sumrall) then blasted a solo homer over the right field wall. Crawford’s 15th homer of the season was only the second long ball in six games at The Dub. The Wildcats weren’t done there, however. After Kasey Donaldson (Gulfport; West Harrison) kept the inning alive with a two-out single, Seibert sent a jolt into a Bengal pitch, driving it over the right-center wall. Seibert’s 11th home run of the season pulled PRCC within one, 5-4.

The Bengals immediately responded in the fourth, plating four more runs to extend their lead to 8-4.

Reid Reynolds (Heidelberg; Northeast Jones) really helped settle the game down after entering the match in the fourth, limiting Eunice to two base runners between the fifth and eighth innings. Reynolds’ veteran presence allowed the Wildcats to hang around.

“Reid pitched his heart out tonight,” Avalon said. “I told him how proud I was of him. He was out of gas but found a way to get a big strikeout in the ninth.”

The Bengals had retired 15 in a row, but Parker gave Pearl River a shot in the arm in the eighth when he delivered two-out moon shot that sailed over the right field wall. The round-tripper pulled Pearl River within three, 8-5.

LSU Eunice worked a two-out walk in the ninth and then stole two bases but Reynolds struck out the next Bengal batter to set up a thrilling ninth inning.

Dalton Cummins (Seminary) worked a one-out, four-pitch walk. Pinch hitter Matt Mercer (Petal) scorched a double off the center field wall. Following a strikeout, Bell walked to load the bases. A wild pitch plated Cummins but Skaggs flied out to the shortstop in shallow left field to end the comeback bid.

At the plate, the Wildcats did not have anyone tally multiple hits however Mercer hit a double and Crawford, Parker and Seibert each hit home runs.

Swistak (Oak Grove) surrendered five runs on one hit and four walks in 1 2/3 innings. Terrell allowed two runs in 1 1/3 innings before turning the game over to Reynolds. The redshirt sophomore pitched six innings, striking out six on three hits and two walks while limiting the Bengals to one run.