EMCC Lions set to meet Meridian in best-of-three baseball playoff series

Published 9:25 pm Monday, May 1, 2023

DECATUR – Friday’s 7-4 nightcap road win over MACCC champion East Central earned East Mississippi Community College the ninth and final conference postseason spot in this week’s region-qualifying baseball playoff series. The EMCC Lions also dropped a 10-3 decision in the opener played at ECCC’s Clark/Gay Baseball Complex to finish the regular season with a break-even overall record.

Having finished the MACCC regular season with a 12-16 conference record, head coach Brett Kimbrel’s 24-24 EMCC Lions will travel to Meridian to begin a best-of-three playoff series against the MACCC runner-up and nationally fifth-ranked MCC Eagles on Thursday (May 4) at Scaggs Field. Game times on Thursday and Friday in Meridian are set for 6 p.m., with an if-necessary third game slated for 2 p.m. on Saturday (May 6).

The EMCC-Meridian series is one of four best-of-three baseball playoff series taking place around the MACCC ranks this week. With conference regular-season champion East Central receiving an opening-round bye into the upcoming NJCAA Region 23/Gulf District Baseball Tournament, this week’s other baseball playoff series will have No. 3 seed Pearl River hosting eighth-seeded Southwest Mississippi, No. 4 seed Itawamba entertaining seventh-seeded Hinds, and No. 5 seed Northeast Mississippi hosting sixth-seeded Jones. The four series winners plus 11th-ranked East Central and nationally top-ranked LSU Eunice will then participate in the six-team, double-elimination regional tournament, May 15-19, in Eunice, La.

The Lions’ postseason-clinching road win over East Central in their regular-season finale came on the heels of dropping Friday’s opening game to the Warriors. After trailing, 2-0, after the first inning in the opener, EMCC fell behind, 3-0, after one frame in the nightcap.

Unlike the opening contest, the visitors avoided allowing the big follow-up second inning in the nightcap, as EMCC starting pitcher Landon Scruggs settled down to toss four subsequent scoreless innings. While the freshman right-hander was keeping East Central off the board, the Lions manufactured three fourth-inning runs without the aid of a hit to take the lead for good.

EMCC then added three insurance runs late in the game on Ayden Alsobrooks’ RBI double in the fifth followed a frame later by Austin Garrison’s two-out, two-run homer – his third of the year – to make it a 7-3 contest.

Scruggs, out of Center Hill High School, improved to 5-2 on the year by striking out seven and scattering six hits over 5.1 innings. Freshman right-hander Joe Scarborough worked the final 1.2 scoreless innings with two strikeouts to earn his first collegiate save.

Alsobrooks, a Starkville Academy product, reached base all four trips to the plate in the nightcap with two doubles and two walks along with scoring a pair of runs.

In the opening game after plating two runs in the first frame, the home-standing Warriors batted around during their five-run second inning to move ahead 7-1 and pin EMCC starting pitcher Drake Bayles with the loss.

The Lions’ only offense in the first game came on a pair of home runs. Southern Miss transfer Evan Radford added to his team-leading total by hitting his 12th homer of the season to lead off the second inning. Amory’s Ethan Kimbrough then accounted for the contest’s final two runs with a pinch-hit, two-run blast with two outs in the ninth inning for his first collegiate home run.