By Stan Caldwell
PRCC Sports Information
POPLARVILLE – It is often said that great pitching will beat great hitting almost every time, and that was the case for Pearl River Community College Tuesday night against Jones County.
In a showdown between the top two teams in the MACJC, the host Bobcats got a pair of excellent outings on the mound to silence the Wildcats and sweep the doubleheader at Ellisville 2-0 and 4-1.
The fourth-ranked Wildcats (31-9 overall, 17-5 conference) dropped out of first place for the first time since the start of conference play in March and is second in the conference with six games remaining in the regular season. No. 3 Jones (33-7) took over the top spot in the standings at 18-4 in league play.
Three Bobcat pitchers combined to record 29 strikeouts and allowed just eight hits in the two games.
"That was a combination of two things," said PRCC coach Michael Avalon. "Number one, they were great on the mound, and second, our approach at the plate today wasn't very good. Put those things together, and the result isn't going to be what you want."
Jones right-hander Will Freeman struck out 18 Wildcat batters in the first game and scattered six hits.
However, Pearl River had two good opportunities to score, in the seventh and ninth innings, getting runners to second and third in both innings with less than two out.
In the seventh, sophomore Simon Landry (Ponchatoula, La.) reached on a dropped third strike and freshman Noah Barron (Hoover, Ala.) singled. A fly ball to deep centerfield moved the runners ahead, but Freeman got back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.
In the ninth, Barron reached on an error with one out, and freshman Shemar Page (Raleigh) smacked the second of his two doubles in the game. Once again, however, Freeman struck out the next two batters to nail down the victory.
Sophomore right-hander Camden Dusang (Carriere) surrendered a solo home run in the second inning and a run in the fifth, before giving way to sophomore Drake Nightengale (Sumrall), who kept the Bobcats off the scoreboard the rest of the way.
Freshman Miles Smith (Laurel) was touched for a run in the first inning before the Wildcats tied it up in the top of the third on a one-out single by freshman Matt Taylor (Raleigh) and an RBI double by sophomore Derek Eberly (Blountstown, Fla.).
But Jones regained the lead with an unearned run in the bottom of the third and added another unearned run in the fifth. The Bobcats also got a leadoff home run in the sixth.
"I have to do a better job of preparing us to play," said Avalon. "But, like I told our kids, the season's not over yet. We've still got six games left and they've got six games left, so a lot can happen in these next few games."
Pearl River will go back on the road Saturday for a 2 p.m. doubleheader at Holmes, then the Wildcats will play their regular-season home finale next Wednesday against Copiah-Lincoln. The regular season ends May 5 at Coahoma.