FULTON -- Taking on the division leader on the road, the visiting Lady Lions of East Mississippi Community College absorbed hard-fought 3-2 and 5-3 setbacks to Itawamba Community College in MACJC North Division softball action Wednesday afternoon on the ICC campus.
In the opener, EMCC bounced back after allowing an unearned run in the opening frame to score a pair of runs in the second inning. Following consecutive groundouts to the pitcher to start the inning, Logan Bozeman and Stevie Wilson sparked the two-out rally with back-to-back singles. After both runners moved up on a wild pitch, sophomore first baseman Cory Roberson, a former Clarkdale product, stroked a clutch, two-run single to center field to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
An inning later, the Lady Indians knotted the score at 2-2 when Kami Roberts was hit by a pitch, moved over on a single by Anna Holley and then scored on a wild pitch thrown by EMCC starting pitcher Misty Richard. ICC would take a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth on three straight hits to open the inning. However, Richard was able to work her way out of trouble by leaving the bases loaded after a pair of strikeouts and a long fly ball to left field by Courtney Dawson.
With momentum seemingly on their side after allowing just the one run in the fifth, the Lady Lions promptly loaded the bases themselves with one out in the sixth. After Haley Tutor, Paige Sheppard and Allison Hauer all reached base on singles, ICC starting pitcher Kristyn Atkins got Bozeman to ground to third, forcing out Tutor at home plate. Wilson then popped up to the shortstop to thwart the rally.
Though falling to 3-6 in the circle on the year, Richard, a West Lauderdale product, pitched well in defeat, allowing the three runs on just five hits while striking out seven and walking three.
Out-hitting Itawamba, 8-5, in the opener, EMCC was led at the plate by Roberson, who added a fifth-inning single to go 2-for-3 in game one.
In the nightcap, the Lady Lions couldn’t quite recover from ICC’s five-run third inning and spent the rest of the game trying to play catch-up. Batting around in the inning, the Lady Indians reached EMCC starting pitcher Shelby Sheppard for those five runs on four singles and a pair of walks.
To their collective credit, the visitors fought back and steadily chipped away at the five-run deficit. EMCC posted solo tallies in the fourth and fifth frames off ICC starting pitcher Rebecca Sloan. Bozeman’s bases-loaded single in the fourth plated a run, though the Lady Lions left the bags full after back-to-back pop-ups in the infield to end the inning. On the way to a 3-for-4 effort at the plate in game two, Quitman product Stormy Lewis doubled home Paige Sheppard in the fifth to make it a 5-2 contest.
The visitors had one more opportunity to get back in the game in the top of the seventh. Amber Spann got things started with a one-out single off ICC reliever Meg Whitten. Spann moved around to third on a wild pitch and subsequent groundout and would later score on Paige Sheppard’s grounder to third that was mishandled on the throw over to first base. Now trailing 5-3, Lewis followed with a two-out single to center to keep EMCC’s hopes alive. With the potential tying runs on base, Whitten got Wilson to bounce out to third to end the contest and complete the home sweep for Itawamba. The Lady Indians improved to 21-10 overall and 16-2 within the division with the pair of victories.
Hurt by the one bad inning, former Kemper Academy standout Shelby Sheppard took the loss for the Lady Lions to fall to 4-5 on the season. Along with her four-plus innings of work and Wilson’s two innings of relief help, four of ICC’s five total hits in the nightcap came in the game-deciding third inning. EMCC also out-hit (6-5) the Lady Indians in the second contest.
Coach Kate Neely’s EMCC Lady Lions, 11-22 overall and 5-11 in MACJC North Division play, travel to Goodman on Friday to take on the Lady Bulldogs of Holmes Community College in a makeup doubleheader set to begin at noon.