Ignited by a walk-off grand slam by LeDarious Clark in game one of a home baseball doubleheader, the Lions of East Mississippi Community College swept visiting Hinds, 7-5 and 6-4, during Tuesday’s MACJC inter-divisional action at Gerald Poole Field on the Scooba campus.
Forcing an extra inning after knotting the score at 3-3 with a solo run in the bottom of the seventh, EMCC had to battle back one final time after the visiting Eagles scored twice in the top of the eighth on a two-out, two-run single by Quade Smith. In the bottom half of the frame, the Lions were down to their final out when things began to get interesting for the home team.
Late-game replacement Brandon Acker helped begin the comeback for the Lions by lining a single off reliever Derek Martin. Blake Key and Chase Nyman loaded the bases in front of Clark with consecutive singles. Clark, a former Southeast Lauderdale High School standout who was rated as the nation’s No. 40 junior college baseball prospect by the renowned baseball scouting service Perfect Game, then provided the game-winning heroics by smashing his second home run of the year and seventh of his EMCC career over the left-center field wall.
In the opening contest, EMCC sandwiched a two-run third inning between solo-run frames by Hinds in the second, fourth and fifth innings. Needing a run to extend the contest, the Lions began the seventh by loading the bases. Following a force out at home, sophomore first baseman Trent Waddell delivered a game-tying sacrifice fly to center field to send the opener into the extra inning.
In relief of starter Joshua Griffis, sophomore right-hander Conner Burton earned his first collegiate victory by throwing the final 3.2 innings. A product of East Webster High School, Burton scattered four hits and allowed a pair of runs while striking out three in relief. Griffis, a southpaw transfer, went the opening 4.1 innings, giving up three runs on eight hits with five strikeouts and two walks, in his second start of the season.
Offensively in the first game, the Lions’ 10-hit effort was led by Nyman, Key and Tyler Odom with two hits apiece.
In the nightcap, the two teams traded unearned solo runs in the opening frame. Two innings later, EMCC answered Hinds’ two-run third with four tallies of their own in the bottom half of the inning. The first two runs scored on a throwing error by catcher Lee Ogletree, who overthrew first base in trying to throw out Colton Caver following a mishandled, swinging third strike. The wild throw ended up in right field corner sending home Acker and Nyman. Two batters later, Odom smacked his first home run of the year and fifth of his EMCC career with Waddell aboard.
The two teams then swapped solo tallies in the fifth frame for the game’s final 6-4 outcome.
On the mound, freshman right-hander Kyle Liberto evened his record at 1-1 after allowing three runs on four hits over four innings while fanning four and not issuing a walk. Sophomore closer Hunter Swart collected his third save of the young season by throwing the final 2.1 innings of hitless baseball with three strikeouts and a walk.
The Lions made the most of their five hits in the second contest. Odom, out of Oak Grove High School, had another two-hit effort with his two-run blast in the third and an RBI single in the fifth.
Coach Chris Rose’s 7-3 EMCC Lions head to Decatur to meet rival East Central Community College in a noon solo contest on Friday followed by a neutral-site nightcap against Jefferson Davis CC. East Mississippi’s next home baseball action is set for Tuesday (Feb. 25) versus fellow rival Meridian Community College. Doubleheader action on the Scooba campus is slated for a 1 p.m. first pitch at EMCC’s Gerald Poole Field.