Big Bulldogs bombs key Sophomore Day sweep

Published 9:23 am Monday, April 24, 2023

PERKINSTON — Sophomore Day at Ken “Curly” Farris Field turned into a thriller, with Mississippi Gulf Coast sweeping Northwest Mississippi thanks to a pair of home runs in the Bulldogs’ last at-bat.


Marc Stephens (Fr., Orange Beach, Ala./Gulf Shores) hit a two-out grand slam for a walk-off 8-6 win in Game 1, and Kade Carpenter (So., Vancleave/Vancleave) cranked a three-run homer in the sixth to beat the Rangers 8-7 in the nightcap.

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“What a great Sophomore Day,” Gulf Coast coach Bob Keller said. “So many guys contributed. It’s a credit to all the kids on the team, and the parents for how they raised them. I believe we won this with character and makeup today, and I’m really proud of the boys.”


Gulf Coast improved to 18-24, 11-13 MACCC and inched back into the playoff picture with two road doubleheaders left. The Bulldogs play Meridian on Tuesday and Northeast Mississippi on Friday.


Northwest is now 22-22, 10-14.


In the opener, the Rangers scored three times in the ninth inning to take a 6-4 lead, then got two quick outs in the bottom of the frame. Nick Thornton (Fr., Pearl/Brandon) got hit by a pitch, and Kannon Varnado (Fr., Gulfport/Harrison Central) followed with a single to center. Amiri Williams (Fr., Long Beach/Long Beach) drew a walk to load the bases.


Stephens was looking for a fastball, and he got it for his second grand slam of the week.


“With two strikes, I was trying to line it off,” he said. “It got up in the wind with some backspin and got out of here. It’s huge. It gives us a chance in the playoffs. We’ve gotta keep it going into next week.”


The Bulldogs won despite being outhit 12-5. Varnado was the only Bulldog with two hits. JC Stogner (So., Sumrall/Sumrall) picked up his second win of the season.


In the second game, Gulf Coast fell behind 7-3 in the third inning but got two of those right back. Sean Smith (So., Pascagoula/Pascagoula) had a double to drive in a run, and DJ Walker (So., Brandon/Brandon) followed with an RBI single.


Walker doubled to lead off the sixth, and Jayden Mark (Fr., Petal/Petal) walked. That brought up Carpenter, who also guessed right.


“I was looking fastball, and I got what I wanted,” Carpenter said. “I was just trying to get a base hit. I’d been struggling earlier in the day, so I was just trying to get a hit. It felt great. It was the best swing I’ve had in a while.”


Tyler Gunter (Fr., D’Iberville/D’Iberville) got his first win of the year, and Stogner  got his first save.


The Bulldogs saluted 14 sophomores who voted Colby Carlisle (So., Petal/Petal) the winner of the Randy Rouse Award. It’s the former Gulf Coast baseball player who died of leukemia in 1992. It is voted on by the team and given to the sophomore who best exemplifies sportsmanship, unselfishness, and loyalty.


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