ELLISVILLE – A three-run seventh inning proved to be decisive for the top-ranked Jones County Junior College Bobcats here Thursday in the Region 23 Tournament at Community Bank Park.
The Bobcats broke a 2-2 tie with East Central Community College and went on to defeat the Warriors, 6-4.
The win lifts JCJC, 44-9, into a winner’s bracket game at 6 p.m. on Friday vs. Hinds, 33-18.
Trailing 9-6, the Eagles scored four runs in the top of the ninth inning – capped by a two-run Caleb Upton home run – and stunned 2nd-ranked LSU-Eunice, 10-9. LSU-Eunice, 41-12, will meet East Central, 24-28, in an elimination game at 2 p.m. on Friday.
The winner of the tournament advances to the NJCAA Division II World Series May 24-31 in Enid, Oklahoma.
Bobcats 6, Warriors 4
Starting pitchers Westin Stringer and Kale Fultz matched pitch-for-pitch until the bottom of the seventh.
With the game knotted at 2-2, Carter Polles led off the inning with a drive to left for a double. Fultz was then replaced by Connor West.
Stephen Stiglets then sacrificed, but first baseman John Morgan Berry could not field the throw from catcher Lane Fazende. The ball got away and Polles scored all the way from first base to make it 3-2.
Chris Morgan and Trent Giambrone were then each hit by pitches to load the bases with no outs. Mason Woodrow then replaced West.
Tyler Graves then singled to right to make it 4-2. After a fly out, Chase Hensley was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force home Morgan to make it 5-2.
But the Warriors came back in the top of the eighth.
Will Simon replaced Stringer at the start of the inning and was greeted by an infield single by pinch-hitter Jake Bush. Dylan Little drew a walk and Berry then singled to load the bases with no outs.
Daniel Goff then entered in relief for JCJC. Kyle McCullouch’s fielder’s choice scored Bush. McCullouch then took second when Cody Daigle struck out and the ball got away from Graves for a wild pitch.
Little was then balked home to make it 5-4, but Goff got pinch-hitter Caleb Woods on a strikeout to end the inning.
JCJC got an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth when Stiglets led off with a single. He advanced to third on a two-base error on an errant pick off throw and scored on Morgan’s sacrifice fly to deep center.
Goff then retired the side in order in the ninth to post his first save.
East Central scored the game’s first run in the top of the first when Little singled with two outs. Berry then singled and Little scored all the way from first on a throwing error.
JCJC tied it in the bottom of the first.
Morgan led off with a single and Giambrone reached on a fielder’s choice. Giambrone stole second and scored on a single by Graves.
East Central took a 2-1 lead in the third when Maxwell Harmon reached on an infield single and was sacrificed to second by Hunter Thrower. Berry’s two-out double scored Harmon.
The Bobcats tied it at 2-2 in the fourth.
Graves led off with a walk and Jordan Stark singled. Hensley sacrificed the runners and after Alex Shermer was intentionally walked to load the bases, Josh Pankratz’s sacrifice fly to left scored Graves.
Stringer went the first seven innings and recorded his nation’s best 12th victory. He allowed two runs (one earned), seven hits, walked none and struck out six. Goff tossed the final two innings, allowed no hits or walks and struck out four.
Polles and Shermer each doubled and singled, while Graves singled twice and drove in two runs for JCJC. Morgan, Giambrone, Stark, Hensley and Stiglets added singles.
Fultz went six-plus innings and took the loss. He gave up three runs (all earned), eight hits, walked two and struck out one. West faced three batters and failed to retire one. He gave up two runs (one earned) and no hits. Woodrow went 1/3 of an inning and gave up one hit and no runs. Cory Kitchens went 1 2/3 innings, allowed one unearned run, two hits and struck out one.
Berry doubled and singled twice for East Central, while Daigle singled twice. Zach May had a double, while Bush and Little singled.
Region 23 Tournament
Jones County Junior College
Community Bank Park
Game 1, Hinds 10, LSU-Eunice 9
Game 2, Jones County 6, East Central 4
Game 3, LSU-Eunice vs. East Central, 2 p.m.
Game 4, Hinds vs. Jones County, 6 p.m.
Game 5, Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 2 p.m.
Game 6, Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5, 6 p.m.
Game 7, If necessary, 2 p.m.