No. 2 Pearl River battles for sweep of Itawamba
Published 12:41 pm Monday, April 18, 2022
POPLARVILLE, Miss. — No. 2 Pearl River baseball had to battle to the very end Friday at Dub Herring Park against Itawamba. The Wildcats grabbed a 15-7 come-from-behind victory in game one before taking a late lead in the nightcap to win 5-2.
“We swung the bats in the first game and so did they,” Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said. “They’re always going to battle and be tough. They’re always a formidable opponent. These were two big wins for us. Our guys did a really good job of not panicking and fighting back. We’re very proud of the way they keep battling.”
Itawamba (14-18 overall; 8-12 MACCC) came out swinging in the first game of the day, putting up a four-spot in the first inning on three singles. The Wildcats (28-8; 16-4) tried to answer in the bottom half as Tate Parker (Gulfport; West Harrison) and Alex Perry (McComb; North Pike) both singled, but the Indians were able to put an end to the threat.
Dakota Lee (Purvis) rebounded from a tough first inning to retire ICC quickly in the second and third innings.
Pearl River stormed back in the bottom of the third inning, plating six runs to take a 6-4 lead. John Griffin Bell (Mobile, Ala.; Faith Academy) and Parker were plunked to begin the inning. A fielder’s choice off the bat of Perry then moved Parker over to third base. Ian Montz (Lafayette, La.; Acadiana) stepped to the plate and lined a ball past the lunging first baseman to plate the first run. An out later, Preston Soper (Madison; Germantown) chopped a ball over the head of the pitcher and into center field to bring in another. Another hit-by-pitch loaded the bases up for Taylor Woodcock (Pass Christian; West Harrison) who drilled a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall for a grand slam, giving the Wildcats their first lead of the day.
The Indians battled to even the score up at 6-6 one frame later after a single and a sacrifice fly.
Pearl River grabbed the lead right back in the bottom of the fifth after a pair of singles by Matt Mercer (Richton; Petal) and Perry. The singles made the score 8-6.
In the sixth inning, the Indians plated a run and had a chance to do a lot more damage after loading the bases with one out. The Wildcats opted to create the lefty-on-lefty matchup by bringing in Ryan Burt (Columbus; New Hope). The sophomore’s first pitch was chopped to second base for an inning-ending double play.
PRCC added on a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Woodcock and Broadus both singled and Bell stepped to the plate and laid down a bunt to try to advance them. The ICC pitcher fielded the ball but threw it down the right field line to allow the runners to score and make it a 10-7 game.
The Wildcats put up three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to take a 13-7 lead. Donaldson drove in the first run of the inning with an RBI single and Woodcock brought in another a few pitches later with a double down the left field line. Broadus drove in the last run of the inning with a looping fly ball that fell for a hit.
Pearl River grabbed the run-rule victory in the bottom of the eighth inning as Woodcock laced a two-run double into left center field. The runs made the final score 15-7.
Lee finished the night with five innings pitched, allowing six runs on eight hits and two walks. Will Passeau (Mobile, Ala.; St. Pauls) recorded an out.
Burt tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings, walking one and striking out another.
“Burt did what he’s been doing,” Avalon said. “We need him to keep doing that for us, he’s been really special.”
Woodcock was incredible at the plate, finishing the game 4-for-6 with a career-high seven RBIs.
“I was very, very proud of Woody in the first game,” Avalon said. “He carried us with some big hits. It was a big game for him.”
Broadus collected three hits and an RBI. Parker, Perry, Montz and Mercer all had a two-hit game.
Cole Tolbert (Laurel; West Jones) made his second start of the season in game two and turned in yet another great outing. In the first inning of play, the right-hander worked into some trouble but was able to force a double play to get out of it.
The Indians nearly got on the board in the second inning, but Tolbert caught the Itawamba runner leaning a bit too much and threw behind him for a pickoff.
Pearl River broke the deadlock in a big way in the bottom half of the frame. After Perry got the inning started with a single, Montz stepped into the batter’s box and crushed a two-run homer over the right field wall to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead. The blast was the outfielder’s ninth of the season.
ICC cut the deficit to 2-1 in the third inning with a sacrifice fly to right field.
Tolbert settled in afterward, setting down the Indians with ease into the fifth inning of play.
A wild pitch allowed the Indians to even things up at 2-2 in the fifth inning.
The Wildcats got a clutch at-bat from Mercer in the bottom of the sixth inning. With Parker and Montz on base, Mercer hit a ball deep into right field that bounced off the warning track and hit the wall to give the Wildcats a 4-2 lead. One batter later, Donaldson lined a single into center field to bring home an insurance run and extend the lead, 5-2.
Landen Payne (Ocean Springs; St. Martin) turned in a quick three up, three down inning in the bottom of the seventh to give the Wildcats a 5-2 victory.
Tolbert finished the evening with 5 2/3 innings pitched and four strikeouts against four hits, two walks and two earned runs.
“Tolbert was really good for us,” Avalon said. “That’s the start that we needed. I wish we could have gotten him the win, but he doesn’t care about that as long as we win. We’re proud of him for tonight.”
Payne tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out a pair of batters.
Montz went 1-for-2 with two RBIs and a walk. Mercer finished the night with a knock and two RBIs.
PRCC returns to the diamond Wednesday at Meridian. The doubleheader is set to get underway at 3 p.m. and will be livestreamed at MCCEagles.live.