POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Pearl River's power was on full display Wednesday in the Wildcats' split against LSU-Eunice at Wildcat Stadium. After narrowly falling 7-6 in Game 1, the Wildcats rebounded with a decisive 10-3 win in the nightcap.
"We have to flip the switch and keep it on," Pearl River coach Christie Meeks said. "Flip it on and keep it on. Our pitching has to be on when our batters are hitting and vice versa. We have to do a good job of finishing. That's been the theme this year."
Meeks said she saw her team's five-homer performance coming.
"We have been hitting so much lately," she said. "We have really been focused and executing what we're trying to do."
GAME 1: LSU-Eunice 7, Pearl River 6
Faith Peterson (Long Beach) gave Pearl River (8-12 overall) a jolt in the first, hitting her first career home run over the left field wall for an early 2-0 lead.
The Bengals (12-11) looked to cut into PRCC's early lead in the first, getting two runners into scoring position but starter Grace Stringer (Moselle; South Jones) dialed up a big strikeout to avoid the trouble.
LSU-Eunice got a run back in the top of the fourth but the Wildcats nailed one runner at home and worked around two Bengals in scoring position to maintain a 3-1 lead.
Facing two outs in the fourth, Fagan sent an 0-1 pitch over the center field wall for a two-run homer and a 5-2 lead.
LSU-E got two runs back in the fifth but once again Stringer struck out the final batter to get out of the jam and limit the Bengals' damage.
The Bengals tied the game 5-5 in the sixth on a two-run homer. After Brook Jordan (Waynesboro; Wayne County) put PRCC back ahead 6-5 with a leadoff homer in her first game back from injury the Bengals once again responded by scoring two runs in the seventh.
PRCC got two runners aboard in the bottom of the frame but were unable to get them home.
Fagan, Thexton, Peterson and Emily McDonald (Laurel; Wayne County) all had two hits in the game; Fagan also walked twice. Thexton hit a double in the game, with Fagan, Jordan and Peterson all going yard.
Stringer took the loss, allowing all seven runs in 6 1/3 innings. She also struck out six. Danielle Lalonde (Cecilia, La.) struck out a batter in the final 2/3 innings of work.
"Grace has done a great job as a whole," Meeks said. "I think at the end of the game she started placing the ball instead of spinning it out so her pitches weren't moving as much. She has to rely on that movement."
GAME 2: Pearl River 10, LSU-Eunice 3
The Wildcats continued to play the power game in Wednesday's nightcap as Runnels launched a solo homer over the left field wall in the first to open the contest's scoring.
After LSU-Eunice scored one in the second and took a brief 3-1 lead in the third, the Wildcats responded with a three-spot in the bottom of the frame. McDonald hit a double to center to score Fagan and then Raegan Havard (Lucedale; George County) singled home Peterson to tie the game. PRCC pulled ahead 4-3 one batter later when a grounder off of Thexton's bat squirted past LSU-Eunice's shortstop, allowing McDonald to score.
Pearl River exploded for six runs in the fifth. The scoring started when the Bengals dropped a McDonald fly, allowing pinch runner Promise Shanks (Waynesboro; Wayne County) to score from third. Thexton singled through the left side two batters later to score McDonald. It looked like the Bengals might minimize the damage after getting two outs but Jenna Smith (D'Iberville) looped an RBI-single over the left side of the infield to give the Wildcats a 7-3 advantage.
Fagan blasted the game wide open in the next at-bat when she hit a laser over the right-center wall for a three-run homer and her second round-tripper of the day.
"I think the timely stuff was key that inning and just making sure everyone is producing," Meeks said, "and even if they make an out it's a productive out like a sac."
The Wildcats never let the Bengals get any momentum late in the contest and starter Gracie Barnett (Vancleave) dialed up a big punchout looking to end the lopsided victory.
Peterson and Havard had monster days at the plate; Peterson was 3-for-3 in Game 2 while Havard was 3-for-4. Fagan led the Wildcats with three RBIs; Thexton added two.
Barnett went the distance for the Wildcats, striking out six while allowing three runs on three hits and two walks.
"Last week at practice I took the pitchers out to the circle and we worked on just ending, not necessarily being so concerned about finesse," Meeks said. "I think mentally she was a lot better today."
DOWN SYNDROME AWARENESS
Wednesday's game was Down Syndrome Awareness Night at Wildcat Stadium.
As part of the festivities, the Wildcats wore blue and yellow ribbons during the game and their batting helmets featured Down Syndrome awareness. Among Wednesday's special guests were residents of Millcreek of Magee, who joined the Wildcats on the field for the National Anthem.
The Wildcats return to MACJC action Wednesday, March 18 when PRCC hosts Southwest. The Wildcats' homestand continues for two more series, with a March 21 doubleheader against Northeast at 2 p.m. and a March 25 doubleheader against Gulf Coast at 4 p.m.
HOW TO TUNE IN
All home games can be watched at PRCCMedia.com/gold.