Pearl River breaks out against NWFSC to splitdoubleheader

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Pearl River turned some heads Saturday with its doubleheader split at Wildcat Stadium.

Although the Wildcats fell to No. 3 Des Moines Area 10-2 in six innings in their first game, Pearl River turned around and run-ruled Northwest Florida State College 11-3 in 5 innings in the night cap.

The victory over the Raiders was a perfect conclusion to non-conference play with PRCC's MACJC opener at Northwest looming Friday. 

"This win means we can beat the teams we're supposed to beat and beat the teams we're 'not supposed to beat,'" Pearl River pitcher Grace Stringer said. "We're going to surprise some people."

Pearl River coach Christie Meeks pointed to the team buying in after the disappointment in Game 1 as the turning point Saturday.

"I just think our girls played flat the first game. We really harped on them to make sure they understood this is the last game before we play conference; Show what we've practiced, show what we know how to do and be unselfish. Be 100 percent bought in," she said. 

GAME 1: No. 3 DMACC 10, Pearl River 2 (6 inn.)
DMACC (4-3 overall) scored three runs in the top of the first on a two-out home run.

The Wildcats (7-9) responded in the bottom of the inning when Emily McDonald (Laurel; Wayne County) skied a ball to left that was lost in the sun, allowing Brooke Fagan (Kiln; Hancock) to score easily.

DMACC tacked on to its lead in the third with a leadoff homer, but PRCC starter Gracie Barnett (Vancleave) rallied to retire the next three Bears in order.

The Bears hit another leadoff homer in the fourth and added a sixth run on an RBI single to extend their lead to 6-1.

After DMACC added two more runs in the top of the fifth the Wildcats looked to chip away at the visitor's lead in the bottom of the frame. The first two PRCC batters reached via errors and the Wildcats loaded the bases with two outs but couldn't cut into the Bears' 8-1 lead.

An RBI-ground out and single with runners in scoring position tacked on two more runs for DMACC in the sixth.

The Wildcats got back on the scoreboard in the sixth when McDonald slugged her first collegiate home run to lead off the inning. McDonald battled early in the count to stay alive and then hit a laser into the left field bleachers. 

McDonald led the Wildcats with two hits and two RBIs.

Barnett took the loss, allowing six runs on four hits and a walk in three innings while striking out two.

Danielle Lalonde (Cecilia, La.) pitched three innings in relief, allowing four runs (one earned) on five hits and a walk. She also struck out a batter.

GAME 2: Pearl River 11, Northwest Florida State College 3 (5 inn.)
The Raiders (18-8) took an early 1-0 lead in the first, scoring from third on a fly ball.

The Wildcats tied the game in the bottom of the second on a Faith Peterson (Long Beach) grounder that scored McDonald. Promise Shanks (Waynesboro; Wayne County) gave the Wildcats a 2-1 lead on batter later on a delayed double steal. McDonald took off for second. As Northwest Florida's catcher threw to second, Shanks dashed home and scored without a throw.

The Wildcats weren't done there.

Fagan lined a double off the wall in left-center to easily score Peterson. Following an RBI-single from Sydney Runnels (Seminary) the Wildcats scored their fifth run of the inning on an error off the bat of Raegan Havard (Lucedale; George County).

Fagan sent the stadium into a frenzy in the fourth when she turned on an 0-2 pitch and clanked it off the scoreboard beyond the left-center wall for a grand slam. On the previous pitch, NWFSC's pitcher froze Fagan on a perfect offspeed pitch, but Fagan was not fooled on the next pitch as the jolt gave PRCC a 9-1 lead. 

"I've been working on my two-strike approach. I honestly just tracked the ball all the way in and hit it. I knew it was gone off the bat," Fagan said. "I was too busy jumping up and screaming to see where it hit."

The Wildcats loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth after Jenna Smith (D'Iberville) legged out an infield single. Although Fagan struck out, the catcher let the pitch get away, allowing PRCC to score its 10th run.

NWFSC scored two in the fifth on a two-out triple into the right field corner. Stringer (Moselle; South Jones) clamped down, striking out the next batter to strand the runner at third.

The Wildcats responded in the bottom of the frame. After Jenna Comeaux (Youngsville, La.; Comeaux) worked a two-out walk, McDonald lined a triple off the right field wall to score the walk-off run.

"I saw the pitch she gave me and I had to hit it," McDonald said. "This is a big win. We dropped two to them last time we played them. I'm proud we came back, showed them what we're made of and didn't let them get us down."

Smith led the Wildcats with a 3-for-3 performance. McDonald, Runnels and Fagan each had two hits. Fagan led PRCC with five RBIs.

In the circle, PRCC saw a return to form from Stringer. The sophomore earned the win, allowing three runs on five hits and one walk while striking out a season-high eight batters.

"After my performance last weekend I really took this week to focus mentally, get my mechanics on the right track and learn to trust my defense," Stringer said. "That's what this week was full of."

Meeks added that Stringer just trusted her abilities and let the ball work for her, instead of the other way around.

"Grace did a phenomenal job," Meeks said. "I think Grace just stopped worrying about all the new stuff. She stopped worrying about everything, trusting the stuff we adjusted with her, went out and pitched and dug in a little bit. She stopped trying to be so perfect."

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CUTLINE: Pearl River outfielder Jenna Smith sends a hard hit ball past Des Moine Area's first baseman in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader at Wildcat Stadium. PRCC fell to DMACC 10-2 in six innings but defeated Northwest Florida State College 11-3 in 5 innings. (JACOB COCHRAN/PRCC ATHLETICS)


Patrick Ochs

Pearl River Community College