The 2019 East Central Community College baseball season came to an end in an NJCAA Region 23 best two-of-three playoff series as the No. 6 ranked Pearl River Wildcats won the third and deciding game 12-4 in seven innings Friday, May 10, in Poplarville.
Pearl River won the opening game of the series 4-3 on May 8. East Central came back to win a 1-0 pitcher's duel the next morning. The Wildcats then won the clinching game three on May 10 as the two-day series was extended a day due to rain.
East Central's season ends with a 23-23 overall record. Pearl River is 36-12 and will play in the Region 23 Tournament May 15-19 on the Itawamba Community College campus in Fulton.
Itawamba was crowned the 2019 MACJC State Champion for having the best overall league record during the regular season and earned a bye and the right to host the double-elimination NJCAA Region 23 Tournament as the top seed. The next eight teams in the MACJC standings faced off in best-of-three playoff series to determine which four would join Itawamba and LSU-Eunice in the Region 23 Tournament.
The Warriors were limited to just four hits in the 4-3 game one loss, but had a chance to tie or win the game in the ninth inning.
East Central took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on an error, hit batter, sacrifice bunt, and then an RBI sacrifice fly by sophomore right fielder Ken Scott (Clarkdale). The Warriors didn't score again until the top of the ninth. Trailing 4-1, sophomore catcher Alex Hay (Lewisburg) hit a one-out double to score a run, followed by another run crossing the plate on a Pearl River error on a hard ground ball by redshirt freshman center fielder Dakota Kennedy (Choctaw Central). With runners on second and third and two outs, Pearl River was able to close out the win with a strikeout.
Hay had two hits for East Central, both doubles.
The second game of the series came down to pitching. East Central freshman right-hander Tanner Knight (Eupora) was brilliant, tossing a complete game three-hitter. All three Pearl River batters who reached base were erased by eventual double plays, and only one Wildcat runner reached third base all game.
The only run of the game came in the top of the eighth inning when freshman designated hitter Eli Harrison (Newton County) singled. Freshman Al Dumas (Eupora) came in to pinch run and was sacrificed to second on a bunt by sophomore shortstop Jay Johnston (Lake). Dumas then stole third and scored a throwing error by the Pearl River catcher.
The Warriors got two hits each from Harrison, Scott, and sophomore second baseman Anderson Shelley (Greenville, Washington School). East Central left 13 runners on base.
All but one of Pearl River's 12 runs in game three came on home runs. The contest was close until the sixth inning. Pearl River led 5-4 heading to the bottom of the sixth when the Wildcats exploded for seven runs on four hits, including a pair of three-run homers. Pearl River also had a two-run homer in the fourth and a three-run shot in the fifth.
East Central's runs came on a bases-loaded walk and a fielder's choice in the top of the third and another fielder's choice and an RBI triple by Kennedy in the sixth.
Johnston led East Central with two hits in the final game.
It was the 10th straight year East Central has competed in postseason play.