POPLARVILLE, Miss. — The No. 6 Pearl River Wildcats saw their bats run hot and cold against Hinds on Wednesday at Dub Herring Park, slugging their way to a 15-4 victory and then falling 2-0.
The Wildcats (30-9 overall, 15-7 MACJC) combined for five home runs in the first game but only mustered five hits in Game 2.
The loss marked PRCC's first shutout in exactly a calendar year.
"We swung the bats really well in Game 1 and I think one of the biggest misconceptions about baseball is if you swing it well in Game 1 you will in Game 2. No. If it were that easy, good hitters would never get out but it's not that simple," Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said. "The guy on the mound has a lot to do with it; your focus and effort have a lot to do with it.
"We just left too many runners out there."
Game 1: PRCC 15, HCC 4 (8 inn.)
Hinds scored first in the top of the third inning but the Wildcats jumped ahead in the bottom of the frame with a leadoff home run from Shemar Page (Raleigh) and an RBI double from Matt Taylor (Raleigh).
The Eagles threatened in the top of the fourth, loading the bases with one out, but starter Colin Danley (Lucedale; East Central) induced a chopper up the middle and Dexter Jordan (Hattiesburg) turned the double play to keep the Wildcats ahead.
Page went more than a month between his second and third homers of the season, but it took all of an inning to collect his fourth round tripper as he crushed a two-out pitch over The Dub's right field seats in the fourth.
Pearl River broke the game open with a five run fifth. Magruder O'Bannon (Gulfport; St. Stanislaus) got in on the long ball action, sending his first of the year over the left field wall to open the frame. Following a Kasey Donaldson (Gulfport; West Harrison) grounder that scored the inning's second run, Jordan, Page and Deyton Lingle (Lake) all singled in runners to push PRCC ahead 8-2.
Noah Barron (Hoover, Ala.) extended PRCC's lead to 11-2 in the sixth with a three-run home run that barely cleared the wall just to the left of the batter's eye for his seventh of the year.
Hinds added two runs in the top of the seventh but Jordan ended the game an inning early in the eighth with a no doubter of a grand slam. The Wildcats' fifth homer of the game also extended Jordan's team lead to 13.
"I wish we would have saved a couple of the homers for the second game but that's not how this game works," Avalon said.
Danley pitched a season-long 6 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on 11 hits and three walks while also striking out three.
"I thought he was good," Avalon said of Danley. "He made a couple mistakes and they're a talented team so they let him know but without a doubt he battled, competed, threw really well and gave us a chance to win.
"That was what we needed out of him."
Reid Golemon (Moselle; South Jones) pitched the final 1 2/3 innings to close the door on the Eagles.
Every PRCC starter reached base safely in the game. Jordan led the offensive onslaught with a 3-for-5 performance that included a team-high five RBIs and two runs scored. Barron and Page also drove in three runs. Page was second on the team with three hits. Wiley Cleland (Columbia; Columbia Academy), Barron and O'Bannon each finished with two hits.
"I thought Magruder played really well," Avalon said. "He's a guy who has stepped up when asked and been a good teammate. When he gets his chances he has seemed to make the best of them."
Game 2: HCC 2, PRCC 0
The Wildcats' bats were scorching in Game 1, however they cooled considerably in Game 2. Not only did Hinds' starter make sure the Wildcats never left the yard, he also did a good job of ensuring PRCC never strung a series of hits together.
"I thought the second game was a tough game and I just don't think we were tough enough that game. We had some opportunities that we could have cashed in and scored a run here or there," Avalon said. "There are times I wish I had a crystal ball and I could know exactly what to do. I didn't make very good calls offensively tonight and our hitters didn't execute in those situations.
"I think they'll own that but we all had a hand in the loss. A lot of credit goes to them. We knew he was their No. 1 and would be tough to beat and he did a great job of mixing in hitter's counts and making big pitches."
The Eagles (23-14, 11-11) plated the game's lone runs in the first inning following a leadoff walk, hit batter and single. HCC had at least one base runner every inning but the pitching combination of Miles Smith (Laurel; Northeast Jones) and Jerod Meggs (Kosciusko) and some nifty glove work — particularly by third baseman Austen Izzio (Carriere; Pearl River Central) and Page at first — ensured the Wildcats were within striking distance until the final out.
HCC worked two runners into scoring position in the fourth and looked to tack on a couple insurance runs but Smith punched out the Bulldog on a 90 mile per hour fastball.
Two innings later the Eagles advanced a runner to third but Izzio teamed up with Page to make the top defensive play of the game. The freshman third baseman made a strong charge and scoop on a chopper to the left side and zipped the ball across to an outstretched Page to nail the runner just in time for the final out.
"The defense was good all day and that's something we've done well lately," Avalon said.
Smith allowed two runs on five hits and two walks while striking out four in 5 1/3 innings. Meggs pitched near flawless 1 2/3 innings sans a walk in the seventh.
"Miles did what Miles does, which is give us a chance to win," Avalon said.
While PRCC's offense overall struggled, Taylor did not. The Southeastern Louisiana signee led all hitters with three hits, including a double.
NIGHTENGALE LANDS HONOR
Former Pearl River star Drake Nightengale was named the Sun Belt's Pitcher of the Week on Tuesday after having a career day against Southern Miss. In USA's 4-1 victory on April 16, Nightengale struck out a career-high 14 in a season-long seven scoreless innings to pick up his third victory of the season.
The former Wildcat is 3-2 on the year with a 4.26 ERA. Nightengale's second on USA with 44 1/3 innings pitched and leads the Jaguars with 56 strikeouts. He also boasts a .209 opponent's batting average.
The Wildcats recently announced plans to host the inaugural Alumni Day on Saturday prior to the team's 2 p.m. doubleheader against Coahoma at Dub Herring Park. Any former Wildcats who are interested in participating in the festivities — which include a brunch, home run derby, tour of new facilities, crawfish lunch and tickets to the games — are asked to register at PRCCBaseballCamps.com.
Pearl River will continue its lengthy homestand with a 2 p.m. doubleheader against Coahoma on Saturday. PRCC closes out the regular season against Jones College at 3 p.m. Tuesday and Northwest at 2 p.m. May 3. Each game will be streamed on PRCCAthletics.comand broadcast on WRJWRadio.com.