No. 3 Pearl River overcomes early rust to best No. 20 Hinds

Published 11:00 am Thursday, May 20, 2021

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — It had been 18 days since No. 3 Pearl River last saw a diamond. While the Wildcats clinched the MACCC championship and earned hosting rights for the Region 23 Tournament, it also meant PRCC had an extra week without built-in games. Despite the gap in the schedule — which was compounded an extra day by heavy rain in the area Monday — Pearl River still found a way to win Tuesday. Led by ace Landon Gartman (Enterprise, Miss.; Bogue Chitto) and timely hitting, the Wildcats topped No. 20 Hinds 6-2 at Dub Herring Park.

“A lot of credit to them. I thought both teams played hard,” Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said. “You saw a little rust from us and Landon Gartman in the first inning. I knew that was probably going to happen. But that’s just part of it. That dude battled and only gave up one earned run. That’s why he’s a special one.”

With the win, the Wildcats advance to play LSU Eunice at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Itawamba will play Hinds in the first putout game at noon. Meridian and East Central will square off at 3:30 pm.

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“It’s going to be fun. They’re a quality team,” Avalon said of the Bengals. “We got to see them for the first time last night. I think both teams will be ready to play. It’s playoff baseball in the best region in the country. You’ll have two really good teams going at it; it’ll be a great time at The Dub.”

Hinds was the first to score Tuesday, pushing a run across on a one-out single in the top of the first.

Pearl River plated two runs in the second courtesy of a Von Seibert (Mobile, Ala.; Daphne) single through the right side that scored Eric Newsom (Madison; Germantown) and Taylor Woodcock (Pass Christian; West Harrison).

The Wildcats added to their lead in the third inning. Newsom put a two-out ball in play and Hinds bobbled the ball, allowing Tate Parker (Gulfport; West Harrison) to score.

Hinds got one run back in the fourth on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch but the Wildcats still led 3-2 after four.

The Eagles looked to tie the game in the sixth thanks to a leadoff error and a two-out walk, but Gartman induced a fly out to end the threat.

Avalon turned the game over to Dakota Lee (Purvis) for the final three innings and was rewarded by the freshman right-hander.

“He was phenomenal,” Avalon said. 

Clinging to a 3-2 lead in the eighth, Hinds doubled to open the eighth. Lee clamped down after that. While the runner advanced to third on a groundout, Lee punched out the next two batters to end the threat.

The Wildcats kept the momentum going in the bottom half of the inning, plating three runs. Dalton Cummins (Seminary) reached on an error to open the frame. With Cummins at second base, Newsom laid down a bunt that was overthrown by the pitcher. The blunder allowed Cummins to score. Following two outs, John Griffin Bell (Mobile, Ala.; Faith Academy) doubled. Nick Skaggs (Biloxi) then singled up the middle, scoring both Newsom and Bell for the final 6-2 advantage.

“They were at-bats you want to see, like Von hitting the ball up the middle (in the second),” Avalon said of Seibert and Skaggs’ nights. “They weren’t trying to do too much. When we stayed within ourselves and stayed simple, good things happened for us.”

HCC led off the ninth with a walk, but Lee retired the next three batters in order to earn the save.

Gartman improved to 9-0 on the year, allowing two runs on four hits and four walks with nine strikeouts.

Lee finished with three strikeouts against one hit and one walk in three scoreless frames.

Skaggs, Woodcock and Seibert all led PRCC with two hits in the game.

“The toughest thing I had to do today was fill out that lineup card,” Avalon said. “There are a lot of really good players on this team. That’s what I told them before. I still don’t know if I got it right.

“We won, but I think there were a lot of guys sitting on the bench who could have gotten it done as well. It will take all of them.”