No. 3 Pearl River splits top-20 showdown with No. 17 East Central
Published 1:51 pm Wednesday, April 19, 2023
POPLARVILLE, Miss. — The No. 3 Pearl River baseball team split a highly competitive doubleheader at No. 17 East Central on Tuesday. The Wildcats weren’t able to hold on to an early lead in an 8-7 game-one loss but responded with a dominant 10-2 victory in the nightcap.
“They’re a good team and this is a tough place to play. The obvious is that we left a lot of runners on base but that just means they made pitches and made plays,” Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said. “It’s just frustrating. We outplayed them for the entire day if you look at the stats. Stats don’t always tell the story but we could have easily gotten out of here 2-0. We didn’t deserve to do that today.
“They’re a tough team. They battle, scratch and claw. They find ways to get on base and that’s what makes them tough to play.”
Pearl River (37-9 overall; 18-6 MACCC) made East Central (28-14; 18-3) pay for mistakes in the top of the second inning to take a 3-0 lead. Triston Hickman (Wiggins; Stone County) was hit by a pitch before Ian Montz (Lafayette, La.; Acadiana) and Hunter Sute (Tuscaloosa, Ala.; American Christian Academy) drew walks to load up the bases. With Blaise Breerwood (Poplarville) at the plate, the ECCC pitcher’s inside pitch crept too far inside and hit Breerwood for an RBI. Jonah Katsaboulas (Pearl; Brandon) was the next to step to the plate and although he grounded into a double play, a run crossed the plate. Will Passeau (Mobile, Ala.; St. Paul’s) drove the fifth pitch of his at-bat into right field for a single for the final run of the frame.
A leadoff homer for the Warriors in the second cut the ECCC deficit to two runs, 3-1. Luke Lyon (Hattiesburg; Oak Grove) didn’t let the setback bother him as he induced a pop-out and struck out two more batters to end the inning.
The Wildcats tacked a run onto their lead in the fourth as Katsaboulas drove a sacrifice fly into left field to score Montz.
Pearl River’s patience at the plate again paid off in the fifth inning. The Wildcats worked the bases loaded with a single and two walks before Montz walked to drive in a run, 5-1.
In the sixth inning, the Warriors plated three runs to cut their deficit to just one run, 5-4.
Although PRCC got an insurance run on a Montz bunt single in the seventh inning, East Central used a pair of extra-base hits and a single to tie things up at 6-6 after seven innings.
A walk and hit-by-pitch for the Warriors in the bottom of the eighth set up a go-ahead sacrifice fly, 7-6.
The Wildcats got one of the most clutch at-bats of the season in the ninth inning to keep the game alive for one more half-inning. Logan Walters (Petal) worked his way into a 1-2 count before unleashing a laser over the left field wall to tie up the game 7-7.
The momentum swing for the Wildcats didn’t last long as East Central worked a leadoff walk before using back-to-back singles to earn a walk-off, 8-7 victory.
Lyon finished his outing with five innings pitched and allowed two runs on three hits, two walks and two hit batsmen. He struck out six Warriors. Blake Gollott (D’Iberville) allowed two runs on two hits. Blake Hooks (Petal) pitched an inning, giving up two runs on two hits while striking out two. Bobby Magee (Petal) threw an inning, giving up one run on a hit and a walk. Landen Payne (Ocean Springs; St. Martin) finished with 1 2/3 innings, allowing one run on two hits and a walk. He struck out two.
Walters finished 2-for-3 with two walks and an RBI. Perry also collected two hits, finishing 2-for-5 with a run scored.
The Wildcats needed to rebound in game two and opted to give the ball to right-hander Cooper Cooksey (Waveland; Bay). The South Alabama signee stepped up when his team needed him the most and tossed six innings of one unearned run baseball.
“Cooper was tough tonight,” Avalon said. “He stepped up and did a really, really good job. He was a silencer that we needed against an offense that puts up a lot of runs. I’m very proud of him.”
Cooksey’s good start was aided by a big first-inning, four-spot. Passeau was hit by a pitch which was followed by back-to-back Preston Soper (Madison; Germantown) and Walters walks. Hickman found himself in a 2-2 count before lacing a grand slam over the left field wall, 4-0.
In the second inning, Soper added a run for the Wildcats. The left-handed hitter turned on a pitch and sent it off the East Central scoreboard in right field for a solo homer, 5-0.
With Cooksey still cruising on the mound in each of the third and fourth innings, PRCC awarded his great performance by giving him three more insurance runs in the fifth, 8-0. The first two batters of the inning, Walters and Hickman, each reached on an error. Singles by Montz and Katsaboulas brought home the first two runs and
Breerwood capped the single with a sacrifice fly into center field.
East Central finally got on the board in the bottom half of the fifth by way of a fielder’s choice, 8-1.
A passed ball gave the Wildcats a run in the sixth inning, and they tacked on another on a wild pitch an inning later to move ahead 10-1.
Although East Central grabbed another run in the bottom of the seventh, Pearl River closed the door to earn a 10-2 victory and salvage a series split.
Cooksey finished with six innings pitched, allowing an unearned run on four hits and three walks. He struck out four Warrior batters. Jordan Belsome (Poplarville) tallied an inning, giving up one unearned run, one hit and one walk.
Hickman finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs. Soper was 2-for-3 with two walks, three runs and an RBI. Katsaboulas and Breerwood also had two hits in the contest.
Pearl River hits the road Thursday for a non-conference matchup with Spring Hill JV. The doubleheader in Mobile, Ala. will get underway at 4 p.m. PRCC will be back at Dub Herring Park next Tuesday for the ‘Cat Fight’ with Jones College.
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