River swept at Gulf Coast

            PERKINSTON — Eighth-ranked Mississippi Gulf Coast swept Pearl River’s Lady Wildcats in MACJC South Division softball action here Wednesday on Ross-Smith Field, taking a 10-2 victory in the opening game of the twin bill before winning 7-3 in the nightcap game.
            PRCC dropped to 21-17 overall and 10-10 in division play, while MGCCC improved to 28-7 and a division-leading 17-3.
            In the first game, Whitney Waits of Oak Grove High cracked a lead off single in the top of the opening inning and moved to second off a sacrifice bunt by Megan Scronce of Petal High before Emily Jackson out of Theodore High in Mobile, Ala., walked. The scoring threat was KO’d when Kelsea Lewis of Oak Grove High hit into a double play for the final outs.
            In the bottom of the frame, lead off batter Lea Kittrell crushed a solo homer over the right field fence, while Danielle Craft drew a walk two outs later. After Craft moved to second and third via a River throwing error, Brooke Gaston belted an RBI single to center to make it 2-0 before Lady Wildcat starter Brittany LeBlanc out of North Vermillion High in Maurice, La., retired Taylor Norris to end the inning.
            After Pearl River went three up, three down in the top of the second; Gulf Coast padded its lead with two runs in the bottom of the frame.
            Lead off Ashley Hickman was hit by a pitch, Catherine Campbell walked, and Kittrell outran a bunt for a base hit to load the bases. After Emily Davis reached on a fielder’s choice, LeBlanc hit Morgan Fairley with a pitch to push in the Lady Bulldogs’ third run before Craft’s RBI sacrifice to center made it 4-0. Reina Baluja’s fly out to left ended the inning.
            PRCC managed a base hit by Shannon Brown of Petal High in the top of the third, but MGCCC bombarded its likes with six runs in the bottom of the inning. All told, 10 Lady Bulldogs went to the plate in the inning.
            Brook Gaston and Taylor Norris led off with base hits and moved to second and third off Hickman’s sac bunt. Gaston scored when Sarah Dodd reached on a fielder’s choice, then Kittrell walked to load the bases.
            That prompted LeBlanc’s mound exit for Courtney Warr, another Theodore High (Ala.) recruit, who immediately gave up an RBI sacrifice, a two-run double to Fairley, an RBI double to Craft, and an RBI double to Baluja to make it 10-0 before Gaston popped out to first to end the inning.
            Pearl River bounced back in the top of the fourth with a pair of runs when lead off Jackson was hit by a pitch, Lewis walked and the base runners moved to second and third off a passed ball. Warr followed with an RBI single to left before Heather Boutwell of Oak Grove High walked to load the bases and Kaci Lantrip of Terry High walked a strikeout later to push in a second run.
            With the bases loaded, Gulf Coast starter Baluja struck out Brown and retired Waits for the final outs.
            Warr retired three straight in the bottom of the frame, while Baluja carbon copied her effort in the top of the fifth to end the game via the eight-run rule.
            Baluja (12-3) got the win in going the distance, giving up three hits, striking out seven, walking four, and hitting a batter; while LeBlanc (9-7) got the loss. She pitched two-and-a-third innings, giving up five hits, walking three, and hitting three batters; before Warr relieved in the third. She went one-and-two-thirds, giving up two hits.
            Brown, Waits, and Warr (one RBI) all singled for Pearl River; while Lantrip had an RBI.
            Gaston paced Gulf Coast’s seven-hit effort with a pair of singles (one RBI), while Kittrell homered (one RBI), Baluja (one RBI) and Craft (one RBI) both doubled, and Fairley (three RBIs) and Norris had base hits. Davis and Dodd had RBIs for the Lady Wildcats.
            The Lady Wildcats committed one error in the game to the Lady Bulldogs’ none.
            In the second game, Gulf Coast went up 1-0 in the bottom of the opening inning before Pearl River took its only lead with two in the top of the second. MGCCC answered with two in the bottom of the frame, while PRCC tied it up with its last run of the contest in the top of the third.
            The 3-3 deadlock remained intact until the bottom of the fifth when the Lady Bulldogs scored two before scoring the game’s final two runs in the sixth.
            Starter Olivia Ladnier (2-0) got the win in her two innings of action, giving up three hits, striking out three, walking three, and hitting a batter; while Baluja relieved in the third. She gave up a hit, struck out three, and walked one.
            Starter Neely McCrary of Petal High (9-7) got the loss in hurling the distance, giving up 10 hits, striking out two, walking three, and hitting a batter.
            PRCC finished with four hits, led by Waits two singles; while Jackson and Lewis had base hits.
            Baluja paced MGCCC’s 10-hit attack with a home run, a double, and a single; while Craft and Davis both doubled and singled. Hickman had two base hits, while Kittrell singled.
            Pearl River committed two errors in the game to Gulf Coast’s one.
            The Lady Bulldogs swept Pearl River in an earlier doubleheader played March 19 in Poplarville, taking 4-2 and 10-8 victories.
            Three more twin bills remain in the regular season for Pearl River, including division foe Hinds at home on Saturday (12 noon), No. 1-ranked LSU-Eunice at home Tuesday, April 23 (3 p.m.), and division rival East Central Saturday, April 27 (12 noon).
            The top four finishers in the North and South divisions earn berths in the MACJC State Tournament set for May 2-4 at the home field of the South Division champion.
            The South Division standings through Wednesday’s play sees Gulf Coast leading the way at 17-3, followed by sixth-ranked Jones County at 14-4, East Central 11-7, and Pearl River at 10-10. Southwest Mississippi is still in the race at 7-11, while Copiah-Lincoln is 7-13 and Hinds 0-18.
            The North standings see East Mississippi in first at 14-4, followed by Itawamba at 13-5, and Northeast Mississippi at 12-6, Holmes at 12-8, Northwest Mississippi at 11-7, Mississippi Delta at 3-17, and Coahoma at 1-17.

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