No. 1 Pearl River outslugs No. 8 FSCJ to advance to National Championship
Published 11:41 am Thursday, June 2, 2022
ENID, Okla. — The No. 1 Pearl River baseball team is one step closer to its ultimate goal. After winning a 13-11 slugfest against Florida State College Jacksonville on Wednesday evening, the Wildcats will now play for the first National Championship in program history.
The Wildcats await the winner of Mercer County and Madison with a date and time still to be announced.
“We challenged the guys and told them that they had to go up there and find a way. I’m so proud of them,” head coach Michael Avalon said. “They did a heck of a job tonight. These guys don’t quit. They’re not going to quit. If you’re going to beat us, you’re going to have to earn it. Florida State College gave us fits there and credit to them, but our guys just don’t give up. That’s not who we are and that’s not what we are. I’m just proud of this group. They really battled.
“The bottom line is we’re playing for a National Championship. That sounds sweet but now we just have to go get it.”
Avalon talked about the Wildcat faithful during his postgame interview.
“Look at this crowd from Pearl River,” he said. “It’s so special. We are 12 hours from home. We’re so glad they believe in us like they do and that they back us. That really helps these guys.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
Pearl River (43-10 overall) struck first in the contest to take a 1-0 lead. John Griffin Bell (Mobile, Ala.; Faith Academy) got things started with a double and advanced to third base on a Gabe Broadus (Wilmer, Ala.; Faith Academy) fly ball into right field. After a Tate Parker (Gulfport; West Harrison) intentional walk, Alex Perry (McComb; North Pike) brought Bell home with a sacrifice fly.
Florida State College (33-21) swung the momentum in its favor in the top of the second, hitting a solo homer over the right field wall to even things up 1-1. The Blue Wave added on two more in the top of the third inning with another long ball. The homer gave them a 3-1 lead.
The fifth inning saw the FSCJ take a 5-1 lead. The Wildcats did not let the deficit bother them as they put up a crooked number in the bottom of the fifth, doing all the damage with two outs. Logan Walters (Petal) got things started in the inning by ripping a double into left field. After Bell reached base with a hit by pitch, Broadus singled up the middle and off the glove of the sliding second baseman to score Walters. Tate Parker (Gulfport; West Harrison) then stepped to the dish and smacked a double off the bottom of the left field wall to bring Walters around. Perry tied the score up 5-5 moments later as he lined a 1-1 pitch into center field to drive Parker home.
Will Passeau (Mobile, Ala.; St. Paul’s) turned in a quick top of the sixth to send the Wildcats back to the plate. Matt Mercer (Richton; Petal) quickly tucked a line drive into the left field corner for a double to start the inning. Walters then smacked the third pitch of his at-bat into right field for an RBI double. The run gave the Wildcats their first lead of the day at 6-5.
FSCJ went back on top in the seventh inning, using a two-run double and an RBI single to take an 8-6 lead.
The seventh inning was one to remember for the Wildcats as they sent 13 batters to the plate and scored a remarkable seven runs. Broadus led things off with an infield single and advanced to second base on a throwing error. He advanced to third and then scored on a passed ball to cut the deficit to 8-7. Perry singled and stole second base then Ian Montz(Lafayette, La.; Acadiana) sent him home with an RBI single. Enter D.K. Donaldson (Gulfport; West Harrison). Donaldson has been tagged as a clutch hitter all year long and he lived up to that by destroying a 1-1 pitch over the left field wall to put the Wildcats back in front, 10-8. Mercer didn’t let the momentum die there, doubling off the jumbotron in right center field. Walters was hit by a single and Woodcock drove a single into right field for an RBI. Bell extended the Wildcat lead out to 12-8 with a fielder’s choice on the first pitch of his at-bat. Great baserunning from Broadus followed as he turned a single to the center fielder into a double. The Blue Wave opted to intentionally walk Parker, but Perry drew a bases-loaded walk to give the Wildcats a 13-8 lead.
FSCJ did not fold as the Blue Wave were able to stretch across three runs in the top of the eighth inning to slice the lead to 13-11.
The Wildcats threatened in the bottom of the eighth but were unable to grab any insurance runs, sending the game to the ninth. Florida State College hit a leadoff single and Ryan Burt (Columbus; New Hope) was brought in from the bullpen. The left-hander struck out the first batter and nearly got the Blue Wave to ground into a game-ending double play, but the batter beat the throw at first base. FSCJ doubled to move two runners into scoring position and the Wildcats brought in Blake Hooks (Petal). Hooks needed just four pitches to strike out the batter, simultaneously sending the Wildcats to their first National Championship game in program history while also sending the Wildcat faithful and dugout into hysterics.
Every Wildcat in the starting lineup collected a hit in the game.
“Hitting is contagious,” Perry said. “We knew when we got in the dugout, we were going to have to scratch a few across. When one guy gets a hit, another guy gets a hit. We feed off of it. That’s what happened.”
Perry was 3-for-3 with three RBIs and a walk. Broadus finished 3-for-5 with an RBI and two runs. Mercer was 3-for-5 with two runs scored.
Sam Hill (Soso; West Jones) tossed the first 4 1/3 innings of the game, giving up five hits, five runs, two walks and four strikeouts. Passeau threw 2 2/3 of an innings, allowing five runs on four hits and two walks. He struck out a pair of batters. Bobby Magee (Petal) pitched an inning, striking out three against three hits, one walk and one run. Burt pitched 2/3 of the ninth inning, striking out one and giving up one hit.
Hooks earned the save after punching out the final batter of the night.
“Blake Hooks grabbed the baseball and said coach I’ve got you,” Avalon said. “He wanted the ball. That was the difference.”
The Wildcats will face the winner of Madison and Mercer County, who played after PRCC on Wednesday. If Madison wins against Mercer County, a best-of-three series will begin Thursday at 7 p.m. If Mercer County takes Wednesday’s game, the Wildcats will return to action Friday against Thursday’s winner.
Tickets are $10 per day or $5 per day for students. A tournament pass can be purchased for $50. Children 10 and under will be admitted free of charge.
All games will be livestreamed at NJCAATV.com for a fee. A day pass is $10 and a tournament pass is $25.
The games will also be broadcasted live at WRJWRadio.com.