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No. 3 Pearl River falls to No. 2 LSU Eunice

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — No. 3 Pearl River’s magical 2021 season came to an end Thursday in Game 9 of the Region 23 Tournament at Dub Herring Park. Despite scoring first, the Wildcats fell to No. 2 LSU Eunice 5-2.

East Central and Eunice will now play at 3 p.m. Friday in the championship game. If ECCC wins, the two teams would face off for a third time this week at 3 p.m. Saturday. The game(s) will be livestreamed at PRCCMedia.com/gold.

“Credit to them they did a good job. We squared some balls up but didn’t catch many breaks,” Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said. “I’m never prepared for this part. You can look at them and tell how disappointed they are. It just wasn’t meant to be. They played their hearts out.”

The Wildcats (36-9 overall) struck first as the “visitors” in the top of the first inning, Nick Skaggs (Biloxi) came around to score on a Tate Parker (Gulfport; West Harrison) sacrifice fly.

The Bengals (45-5) immediately countered, scoring four in the bottom of the first. PRCC got a run back in the second when John Griffin Bell (Mobile, Ala.; Faith Academy) reached on an error, allowing Dalton Cummins (Seminary) to score.

Eunice added a fifth run in the second.

Playing from behind, Avalon opted to turn to right-hander Sam Hill (Soso; West Jones) to open the third. The freshman rewarded his coach and gave the Wildcats a chance to climb back into the game by retiring the first 15 batters he faced — nine via strikeout. Hill surrendered a leadoff single in the eighth, but retired the next three in order.

“He grew up a lot tonight and I’m proud of him,” Avalon said of Hill, whose 10 strikeouts are a career high.

Jacob Scherer (Mandeville, La.; St. Paul’s) started the game for PRCC, surrendering four runs on three hits and a walk in 2/3 of an inning. Trace McNabb (Foxworth; West Marion) finished the first inning before Ryan Burt (Columbus; New Hope) pitched a scoreless second.

Reflecting on Pearl River’s remarkable season and first MACCC Championship since 2018, Avalon fought back his emotions.

“I just don’t think it was meant to be. There’s no question. You can’t deny that these guys are champions. They leave here and it’s a really special group. It just doesn’t seem real,” he said. “This is the hardest part of the job. There’s a lot of great parts. This is the toughest. A lot of kids have put a lot of time into this program and raised the bar. They’ve done an incredible job. They have represented their families and this program and most importantly God. They played their hearts out.

“We weren’t perfect and nothing is perfect. This group is special. I just think about everything they’ve done and everything that they mean to this place. This is the absolute toughest part of the job.”