FULTON — Mississippi Gulf Coast nearly pulled off a shock upset in the first round of the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament on Wednesday, pushing No. 2 Itawamba to the wire in an 8-7 loss.
"When you get opportunities against good teams, you have to take advantage," Gulf Coast coach Rodney Batts said. "We couldn't get a bunt down, we made some base-running mistakes that really hurt us. You get behind 5-1, and I thought we played a little timid until we started to relax."
Gulf Coast (28-17) finds itself in the losers' bracket after giving the Indians (40-6-1) all they wanted.
The Bulldogs trailed 5-2 in the fifth when Itawamba loaded the bases with one out. A ground ball to the second baseman that would have gotten Gulf Coast out of the inning took a shocking left turn.
"That's a double play ball that not only took a hop, it took a turn on him," Batts said. "That's a tough ball. You can work on ground balls all you want, but you can't simulate that one."
He said the play isn't what beat the Bulldogs, especially considering they answered by forcing three Itawamba errors in the sixth to tie the game 7-7.
Matt Inlow (So., Pascagoula/Pascagoula) had a single to drive in a run, and Nick Sims (Fr., New Hope/New Hope) hit a ground ball where the throw to second wound up in center field to score a run to make it 7-4. Itawamba missed a chance to turn a double play, and two runs scored before Alden Davis (So., Pascagoula/Pascagoula) tied it with a sacrifice fly.
The Indians got a two-out single in the bottom of the inning to retake the lead, and the Bulldogs couldn't respond.
Gulf Coast had a runner thrown out at third for the third out in the first after tagging up, and a runner picked off at second with nobody out.
The Bulldogs (28-17) face an elimination game Thursday at noon when they play No. 4 Jones (37-11).
"It's win-or-go-home," Batts said. "It's 11 o'clock now, and we'll be right back out here at 9:30 in the morning. It's do-or-die. Everything is riding on tomorrow's game. Our guys will be rejuvenated. We'll get some rest and they'll come back ready to play."
2019 NJCAA Region 23 Baseball Tournament
Game 1: LSU-Eunice 8, Northwest 6
Game 2: Pearl River 4, Jones 2
Game 3: Itawamba 8, Gulf Coast 7
Game 4: Gulf Coast vs. Jones, noon
Game 5: Pearl River vs. Northwest, 3:30 p.m.
Game 6: LSU Eunice vs. Itawamba, 7 p.m.
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