POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Hosting its first Region XXIII Tournament in program history Wednesday evening, No. 3 seed Pearl River struck first against No. 2 seed and No. 1 nationally ranked LSU-Eunice but couldn't hold on, falling 7-2 at Lady Wildcat Stadium.
With the defeat, Pearl River will meet Copiah-Lincoln — who fell to Itawamba 7-0 in Game 1 of the tournament — at 4 p.m. Thursday. LSU-E and ICC will clash at 2 p.m. The loser of LSU-E and ICC will play the winner of PRCC-CLCC at 6 p.m. in the day's second elimination game.
"I felt like the kids came out here and fought. We pitched well enough to win, it just didn't go our way," Pearl River coach Leigh White said.
Starter Gracie Barnett (Vancleave) threw a gutsy game in the circle. Although she allowed seven runs, four were unearned. Barnett also allowed eight hits and four walks against one big strikeout.
"Gracie got out there and battled. I thought she pitched a great game," White said. "We made a couple mistakes on defense that could have gotten us out of some situations and the game could have ended up differently. I told the kids we need to have a short-term memory; reflect on it, get better and let's move on."
Several times in the first three innings the Bengals (45-6 overall) looked like they might scratch the scoreboard first, but each time Barnett and the Lady Wildcats (27-21) clamped down to get out of the jam. The biggest moment early on may have been in the first when LSU-E had two Bengals reach base but Barnett froze the innings' fifth batter to get out of the jam.
Both defenses have had better games. PRCC capitalized on Bengal errors on both of their runs. The first came in the third when Brooke Fagan (Kiln; Hancock) scorched a ball between the first baseman's legs, allowing Neely McLeod (Lucedale; George County) to score for a 1-0 lead.
After falling behind 4-1, PRCC got a run back in the fifth. After Fagan reached courtesy of an error, and moved all the way around to third on another error she easily scored on a single to left-center by Elizabeth Taggard (Picayune).
Following the game, White praised Fagan for her all-around play.
"Brooke made some great plays. She really covered the middle well and the 5-6 hole. She was diving all over the place for balls and was just being gritty," White said. "And then at the plate, she got in the box to hit. Her presence in the box was 'I'm going to be a hard out' and she got in there and showed them that."
Every game in the tournament will be streamed at PRCCAthletics.com.