River sweeps ‘Wamba in best-of-three; hosts MACJC Tournament this weekend

            POPLARVILLE — Ninth-ranked and South Division champ Pearl River swept Itawamba in one of four MACJC best-of-three playoff series here this past weekend, taking a hard-fought 2-1 victory in 10 innings in Saturday’s first game before rebounding with a lopsided 11-4 win on Sunday.
            Nicholls State (La.) signee Ryan Deemes was the man of the hour for the host Wildcats, as the sophomore out of Holy Cross High in Chalmette, La., picked up both mound victories. Deemes (9-2) won Saturday’s game after relieving starter Christian Talley in the 10th, before going seven innings in the series-ending victory.
            Paul Pickerrell out of John Hardin High in Elizabethtown, Ky., belted a bases-loaded single — the Wildcats’ 10th of the game — in the bottom of the 10th to propel The River to victory on Saturday.
            The first run of the game came in the bottom of the third inning when Ole Miss signee Braxton Lee of Picayune High led off with a single to right and Darius Knight of Pearl High followed by outrunning a bunt for a base hit. Two outs later, Forrest Dungan of Columbia High belted an RBI single before Kollin Cannon out of St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis grounded out to short to end the inning.
            Itawamba answered with its only run in the top of the fourth. Austin Welch led off with a single to right and Ethan Gill reached on a fielder’s choice with Welch safe at second via a Wildcat error. The runners advanced on Drew Wheeler’s sacrifice bunt and Welch scored off Cody Shrewsbury’s sacrifice fly to center. Talley, a Southern Miss signee who prepped at Hancock County High, then K’d Brayden Owen for the final out.
            Over the next five innings, Itawamba would see only three base runners; while Pearl River wouldn’t see any until the bottom of the final frame when Darien Brown of Hattiesburg High outran a bounding infield grounder for a base hit and Lee and Knight reached on bunts via errant defensive play by the Indians. That set the stage for Pickerrell’s walk-off single to end the game.
            Deemes picked up the win despite facing only three batters in the 10th, while Talley pitched superbly in his nine innings on the mound. He gave up a meager three hits, struck out 11, and walked two.
 
            Starter Dylan Earnest (6-4), a Southeastern Louisiana signee, got the loss in going the distance, giving up 10 hits, striking out seven, and hitting a batter.
            Welch paced ICC with two singles, while Wheeler had a base hit and Shrewsbury one RBI.
            Lee led The River’s 10-hit effort with three singles, while Knight had two base hits. Brown, Dungan (one RBI), Ivan Garcia out of Katy (Tex.) High, and Pickerrell (one RBI) had singles.
            PRCC committed two errors in the game to ICC’s one.
            In Sunday’s contest, things started out bleakly for Deemes, as Tre Smith crushed the very first pitch of the game over the left field wall for a 1-0 lead. Itawamba then added another run in the top of the first before padding its lead to 4-0 in the second.
            Deemes walked lead off Tyler Tipton, who moved to second off Brent Younger’s sacrifice and scored off Smith’s double to right. Ethan Gill then singled in Welch before Deemes struck out Wheeler for the final out. Dungan crushed a one-out, solo homer over the right field wall in the bottom of the inning to make it 4-1.
            Pearl River took the lead for good in the bottom of the third with four runs, then added two in the fourth before pounding the Indians with four in the sixth. Nathan Pugh of Starkville High crushed a three-run homer in the inning.
            Deemes went seven innings, giving up five hits, striking out three, and walking four; while Southern Miss signee Brandon Fry out of Nease High in Jacksonville, Fla., relieved in the eight. He gave up a hit and recorded a strikeout.
            Starter Ben Hudspeth (7-4) got the loss in his two-and-two-thirds innings on the mound, giving up four hits, striking out two, and walking three; while Ben Aldridge relieved in the third, going two-and-one-third, giving up four hits, striking out three, and walking two. Collin Minga pitched the sixth, giving up three hits; while Will Cockrell pitched the final two frames, giving up two hits and walking a batter.
            Smith led ICC at the plate with a homer and a double (two RBIs), while Gill (one RBI), Shrewsbury, Welch, and Wheeler all had base hits.
            Dungan (two RBIs) and Pugh (four RBIs) paced the Wildcats’ 13-hit effort with a home run and two singles each, while Pickerrell had three base hits (one RBI), Lee two singles, Cannon a double, and Krisjon Wilkerson, another St. Stanislaus recruit, a single (one RBI). Knight and Derek Martin of Poplarville each had an RBI for the Wildcats.
            Each team committed one error in the game.
            PRCC improved to 38-10 with the weekend sweep, while ICC dropped to 23-23.
            Besides Pearl River, North No. 2 Northwest Mississippi sealed a state tournament berth with its 5-3, 11-9 series sweep over 19th-ranked and South No. 3 Jones County in Senatobia. The tournament’s two other berth will be decided Monday with North No. 1 Northeast Mississippi is hosting South No. 4 Mississippi Gulf Coast in Booneville, while South No. 2 East Central is hosting North No. 3 Mississippi Delta. Results of those two series are unavailable.

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