ELLISVILLE — No. 12 Mississippi Gulf Coast flexed their muscles early, then buckled down late to beat Copiah-Lincoln 6-4 in the first game Wednesday of the MACJC Softball Tournament.
"It's always big to get in that winners' bracket," Gulf Coast coach Kenneth Long said. "I think we hit the well early and got into the lead. Avery (Sanders) got herself back together in the seventh inning and pitched a great game."
Mya Hopson (So., Madison Central/Madison) and Camryn Williams (So., White Hall/White Hall, Ark.) had two-run homers, and Sydney-Brooke Sims (Fr., West Harrison/Gulfport) had a two-run double as the Lady Bulldogs (21-12) built a 6-0 lead.
Gulf Coast will play No. 10 Itawamba (34-12-1) Thursday. The game is scheduled for 5 p.m., but the schedule may be moved up two hours to try to beat expected inclement weather.
Sanders (12-4), who was named NJCAA Pitcher of the Week for last week while she was in action, took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before surrendering four runs on four hits in the frame. The sophomore right-hander from Thibodaux, La., stranded a leadoff double in the seventh with a pair of strikeouts and a popup. She finished with 10 strikeouts and four walks.
Williams singled to lead off the second, and two batters later Hopson mashed a ball to center field.
"That's a big thing," Long said. "Yesterday in batting practice, I noticed Mya was just hitting the ball really, really hard. I felt confident she would hit good today, and she did."
Hopson got in a hitter's count and made the pitcher pay.
"I was just trying to be productive," she said. "I've been in a slump, so the postseason is the time to do it. I knew it was coming in 3-1."
After Briana Shores (Fr., Richland/Richland) singled with two outs in the third, Williams yanked a pitcher over the right-field wall.
"It was pretty much over the plate," she said. "I don't think she was expecting me to swing at the first pitch, but I wanted to take advantage of it because I didn't want trash the rest of the at-bat."
Williams went 2-for-3 Wednesday. She's 15-for-21 (.714) in her last seven games with four doubles, four home runs and 17 RBI.
"I'm just really excited about going into the playoffs," she said. "I'm seeing the ball really well, and my confidence is high. It's really working in my favor right now."
Hopson singled to lead off the fourth, and Kayla Cade (Fr., Harrison Central/Saucier) followed with a double. Sims smoked a ball between the first baseman and the bag to make it 6-0 over Co-Lin (27-15).
2019 MACJC Softball Tournament
Game 1: Gulf Coast 6, Copiah-Lincoln 4
Game 2: Itawamba 9, Southwest 1 (5 innings)
Game 3: (8) Pearl River vs. (1) Jones, 5 p.m.
Game 4: (5) Northeast vs. (4) East Central, 7:30 p.m.
Game 5: Copiah-Lincoln vs. Southwest, noon
Game 6: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 2:30 p.m.
Game 7: Gulf Coast vs. Itawamba, 5 p.m.
Game 8: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 7:30 p.m.
Game 9: Game 8 loser vs. Game 5 winner, noon
Game 10: Game 7 loser vs. Game 6 winner, 2:30 p.m.
Game 11: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 5 p.m.
Game 12: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 7:30 p.m.
Game 13: Game 11 loser vs. Game 12 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 14: Game 11 winner vs. Game 13 winner, 3:30 p.m.
Game 15 (if necessary): Game 14 winner vs. Game 14 loser, 6 p.m.
For more information on MGCCC's 10 intercollegiate athletic teams, follow @MGCCCBulldogs on Twitter and MGCCCBulldogs on Facebook, and go to mgcccbulldogs.com.
Sports Information Director
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College