EMCC Lions to host baseball playoff series after splitting with Hinds

Published 1:10 pm Monday, May 2, 2022

SCOOBA — Blayze Berry’s complete-game pitching effort and four home runs by the Lions in the nightcap lifted East Mississippi Community College to a home doubleheader split with Hinds during Friday’s MACCC baseball action played at Gerald Poole Field. EMCC bounced back with a 7-4 win in game two after the visiting Eagles claimed a 14-5 victory in the opener to close out regular-season conference play.

Having finished the MACCC regular season with a 20-8 conference record, head coach Brett Kimbrel’s 25-16 EMCC Lions will host an NJCAA Region 23 best-of-three playoff series, May 5-7, against an opponent to be determined following Monday’s rescheduled doubleheader between Meridian and Coahoma. With single nine-inning games set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday (if necessary), game times on the Scooba campus will be 2 p.m.

East Mississippi’s 20-8 MACCC record is the program’s best conference mark since the 2015 EMCC squad (29-18; 20-8 MACJC) finished as regular-season conference runners-up and placed third in the conference tournament on the way to making the program’s first NJCAA Region 23 Tournament appearance since 2004 and earning a second straight No. 18 season-ending national ranking in the NJCAA Division II baseball poll.

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After dropping Friday’s opener to Hinds, 14-5, the Lions rebounded to score all seven of their runs in the second game on home runs. Berry helped his own cause on the mound by getting things started with a three-run home run off Hinds starting pitcher Kendrick Bershell in the opening frame. Berry then followed with a solo blast in the third inning for his third homer of the day, seventh of the season and 11th of his EMCC career.

Trey Trosclair added his second homer of the day on the heels of Berry’s third-inning solo shot to raise his season total to eight and give the Lions a 5-1 lead. A frame later, Coby Holmes connected on a two-run blast – his seventh of the year – to give EMCC a pair of key insurance runs.

After scoring their initial run on an infield groundout in the first inning, the Eagles made things interesting in the sixth inning when Reed Kellum’s two-out, three-run homer off Berry cut EMCC’s lead to 7-4.

Berry answered the challenge by striking out the side in the final frame to give the UAB signee nine strikeouts for the game. He did not allow a walk and scattered seven hits over seven innings to improve to 5-1 on the year with the complete-game win. At the plate, the Heritage Academy product went 2-for-3 with his pair of home runs driving in four runs. Berry finished the day going 5-for-8 during the twin bill with five total RBIs, three homers and four runs scored.

In the nine-inning opening game, the home-standing Lions took an early 2-0 lead on Trosclair’s two-out, two-run triple in the first frame off Hinds starting pitcher Austin Fugler.

The visitors answered by scoring five total runs in their next two at-bats off EMCC starter Kylan Stepter. Consecutive run-scoring, two-out hits by Clayton Thurman, Dylan Coleman and Gentry Tigrett in the second inning were followed by Vantrel Reed’s two-run homer a frame later to give Hinds a 5-2 lead.

The Eagles broke open the contest by scoring nine total runs over the final two innings. Two-run blasts by Josh Rodriguez and Coleman off EMCC middle reliever Grant Johnson in the eighth preceded a five-run ninth highlighted by Thurman’s three-run homer off Ian Dillon.

Offensively in the opener, Berry and Trosclair led the Lions with three hits apiece. Berry hit a solo home run in the fifth inning – his first of three homers on the day – along with a double and single. Trosclair began the day going 3-for-4 with four RBIs in the opener, including a two-run blast in the ninth, before finishing the doubleheader going 5-for-6 with two homers and five runs batted in.