POPLARVILLE, Miss. — The Pearl River softball program earned a split in Tuesday's season-opening doubleheader against Coastal Alabama-South. PRCC roared to a 9-6 victory in Game 1 before falling 8-2 in the nightcap at Wildcat Stadium.
"I think at the very beginning it was clear it was our first game. But after that they settled in and remembered who they were, what we've been practicing and what we've been working on," Pearl River coach Christie Meeks said. "Toward the middle part of the game they really found who they are and realized they don't play to someone else's speed, they set the speed. That's what they have to remember every game."
Tuesday's games also served as PRCC's breast cancer awareness games.
Pearl River did a little bit of everything in its season opening win, coming up with a couple of web gems, just enough pitching and plenty of offense.
The Sun Chiefs opened the scoring, plating one run in the first and another in the second. Pearl River surged ahead in the bottom of the second. Aunie Rethmeyer (Belle Chase, La.) made the most of her collegiate debut with a perfectly placed two-run double into shallow left. The hit scored Cassady Bradford (Saucier; West Harrison) and Abigail Thexton (Sumrall). Coastal Alabama's second baseman thought she caught low liner from McKall Holder (Hurley; East Central) but the umpire ruled the ball skipped into her glove. The snafu allowed Rethmeyer to score, giving PRCC a 3-2 lead. Sydney Runnels (Seminary; South Jones) jolted PRCC ahead 5-2 with a no doubt, two-run homer over the left field wall.
The Sun Chiefs stormed back in the third with a four-run frame to retake the lead at 6-5. From there on out it was all Wildcats. Holder tied the game in the fourth on a double to shallow left. A sacrifice fly to shallow right by Promise Shanks (Waynesboro; Wayne County) pushed PRCC ahead 7-6 in the fifth.
The Wildcats closed the door in the sixth with a two-run seeing eye single from Thexton that scored Kaitlyn Passeau (Lucedale; George County) and Peyton Lee (Picayune; Pearl River Central).
In addition to getting it done at the plate, Shanks had a couple marvelous plays in the field, The sophomore threw out a Sun Chief at home on a perfectly thrown ball in the third and then the left fielder laid out for a diving grab in the alley to open the seventh.
"She was fantastic," Meeks said. "She made plays at the plate and was just fantastic in the field. It was a gut feeling to start her and she really showed out and made the most of her opportunities."
Perhaps the story of the game for PRCC was the performance of freshman pitcher Hannah Embry (Vicksburg; Porters Chapel Academy). The right-hander entered the game in the top of the third with PRCC trailing 6-5. She promptly induced a ground out to end the threat and went on to strikeout five over 4 1/3 scoreless innings. Embry only allowed two hits and a walk.
"She did a great job of going out when her number was called, staying composed and doing her job," Meeks said.
Miller and Thexton each led PRCC with three hits. Thexton, Runnels and Rethmeyer had two RBIs apiece. Thexton also stole two bases.
CAS took a 4-0 lead in the third. The Wildcats got one run back in the bottom of the frame on a sacrifice fly from Runnels that scored Shanks.
The Wildcats looked like they might do damage in the fourth, loading the bases with one out, but the Sun Chiefs induced a double play to get out of the jam.
The Sun Chiefs doubled their run total in the sixth with a two-out grand slam.
The Wildcats got one more run back in the seventh on a groundout by Rethmeyer that scored Taelor York (Choctaw; Clinton Christian Academy).
Lindsay-Rose Sheffer (Lago Vista, Texas) turned in a strong performance for PRCC in her debut, allowing eight runs (four earned) in 5 2/3 innings.
"I think Lindsay-Rose did fantastic. We didn't take away opportunities behind her on defense," Meeks said. "She had two innings where they scored four runs and in both innings there were a lot of bobbled balls or misplays or missed opportunities.
"She did a good job of keeping people off balance."
York was PRCC's leader at the plate, tallying to base hits.
PRCC has a busy weekend ahead, playing in Chipola's Tournament in Dothan, Alabama. Pearl River plays Southern Union on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. followed by a 4:30 p.m. showdown against Coastal Alabama-East.
The Wildcats turnaround Sunday and play Northwest Florida State at 10 a.m. and Chipola at noon.
Meeks' team returns to Wildcat Stadium on Saturday, Feb. 13 for a 1 p.m. doubleheader against Marion Military Institute. The DH will also serve as the Wildcats' military appreciation games.
HOW TO TUNE IN
To help fans stay connected to the Wildcats this semester, Pearl River once again plans to stream all of its home events at PRCCMedia.com. Most events will be broadcast at PRCCMedia.com/Gold but in some instances where multiple teams are at home, PRCC will also have a feed on its auxiliary channel at PRCCMedia.com/Maroon. Fans who have Roku or Amazon Fire devices can also watch the Wildcats on their televisions by downloading the "Pearl River CC" channel from their app store.