|EMCC Lions close out baseball home stand by falling to No. 13 Itawamba 4-2 and 7-5|
SCOOBA – The Lions of East Mississippi Community College concluded a week-long baseball home stand by dropping a pair of two-run decisions, 4-2 and 7-5, to 13th-ranked Itawamba Community College in MACJC North Division action Saturday afternoon at EMCC’s Gerald Poole Field.
A pair of infield miscues cost the Lions in the opener, while stranding 11 runners on base proved to be their downfall in the nightcap.
In game one, ICC and EMCC traded solo tallies in the first inning with both runs benefitting from infield errors. In the top of the first, the Indians pushed across their initial run after back-to-back walks to begin the game came back to haunt EMCC starting pitcher Blake Hutcheson when Chris Hannig’s possible double-play grounder escaped second baseman Tyler Bonaventure. For the Lions, leadoff hitter Leroy Wilson reached base on a fielding error and later came around to score on Austin Braddock’s two-out infield single.
The Lions moved ahead, 2-1, in the third inning as Bonaventure atoned for his earlier miscue by singling home Wilson, who had smacked a double to left-center field. However, EMCC would manage only one more base hit off ICC starter Colin Minga over the next three innings in going down in order three straight times.
Itawamba evened the score at 2-2 with a run in the fifth to set up the decisive sixth inning. In the sixth, Hutcheson surrendered a one-out walk to Zach Randolph, who was replaced by courtesy runner Jeremy Ferguson. Once again, EMCC’s Bonaventure found himself in the middle of the action when William Goss’s soft liner skimmed off the top of the second baseman’s glove and into right field. Channing Nanney followed with a run-scoring sacrifice fly to left field and Cody Shrewsbury capped a 3-for-3 outing at the plate with a bloop double down the left-field line to account for the 4-2 final outcome.
The Lions threatened in the bottom of the seventh with a leadoff single by Braddock and a one-out bunt single by Zane Migues. However, ICC closer Dylan Earnest got Alex Chick to pop up and Ismael Reyes to line out to short to end the contest.
Hutcheson was the tough-luck loser for the Lions, allowing six hits and four runs (two earned) while pitching into the seventh before giving the ball to reliever Dillon Hawkins. Five walks did contribute to Hutcheson’s loss in the opener, as the sophomore left-hander from Saltillo fell to 0-3 on the season.
The Lions had their chances in the nightcap but couldn’t take advantage of multiple scoring opportunities through the first four innings. EMCC did benefit from a pair of ICC throwing errors in the first inning to take an early 2-0 lead.
The Indians did most of their damage during their five-run third inning off EMCC starter Smokey Ethridge. Along with three hits, including an RBI double by Hannig in the middle of the inning, Itawamba scored two of its runs on wild pitches and another on a throwing error by Lion catcher Holden Watts.
After stranding two runners on base during their two-run first inning and leaving the bases loaded following a scoreless second, the Lions cut the deficit to 5-4 after plating a pair of runs in the third frame on run-scoring singles by Randy Hornesbuger and Wilson. However, EMCC would leave potential tying and go-ahead runs on second and third.
To their collective credit, the Lions battled back the next frame to start a two-out rally in the fourth inning. Watts got things going with an infield hit and was replaced by courtesy runner Cody Berryhill. ICC middle reliever Parker Northington then loaded the bases by hitting both Migues and Reyes. Following another pitching change, Hornesbuger fought back from a 0-2 count against ICC reliever JD Roberts to earn an 11-pitch walk and send home the tying run. Aaron Brady also battled out of a 0-2 hole but was caught looking at a full-count strike to end the rally with the bases loaded for the second time in three innings.
The Indians immediately seized the momentum by plating their leadoff hitters in the fifth and sixth innings. Meanwhile, Itawamba’s Ben Hudspeth moved from behind the plate to the pitcher’s mound and completely shut down the Lions over the final three innings. After allowing an infield single to Wilson during his first batter faced in the fifth, Hudspeth then set down the next nine EMCC batters in order to lock up the 7-5 nightcap victory and complete the sweep for the visitors.
Ethridge, a freshman from West Lauderdale, dropped to 3-2 on the season after allowing six runs on six hits while striking out five and walking a pair in four-plus innings of work. Hawkins and Blake Roberts, former New Hope teammates, also saw action on the hill for EMCC in game two.
Wilson, a sophomore outfielder from Columbus High School, paced EMCC’s 10-hit team effort in the nightcap with a 4-for-5 outing, including an RBI and a run scored to go along with his four singles. Wilson also scored two runs in the opener in addition to his third-inning double. Hornesbuger, from Louisville, went 2-for-3 at the plate in game two with a pair of runs batted in.
Coach Chris Rose’s 10-14 EMCC Lions, 1-5 in division play, will hit the road this coming week with MACJC North Division doubleheaders at Northeast Mississippi Community College and Coahoma CC on Wednesday and Saturday, respectively.
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