ELLISVILLE – The 13th-ranked Jones County Junior College Bobcats followed their usual script to victory here Thursday evening in the opening round of the MACJC State Baseball Tournament.
They received an outstanding pitching performance from Andrew Pierce, played solid defense and came up with several clutch hits to defeat the Northwest Mississippi Community College Rangers, 7-0, before a good crowd here at Community Bank Park.
The victory means the Bobcats, 36-14, will now meet Holmes Community College in a winner's bracket game at 2 p.m. on Friday. The win also assures JCJC a spot in next week's Region 23 Tournament.
Holmes defeated Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College 8-5 in the tournament opener. Gulf Coast plays Northwest in an elimination game at 11 a.m. on Friday.
The Gulf Coast/Northwest winner meets the JCJC/Holmes loser at 6 p.m. on Friday in another elimination game.
The top three teams in the state tournament qualify for the regional tournament, which takes place May 19-21 at Holmes. This year's regional tournament is hosted by the highest remaining North Division seed, which will be Holmes.
Pierce gave up a leadoff single to Chad Wardlaw in the top of the first and then did not allow another hit until Jeremy Carlisle singled to open the fifth. The Rangers' other hit came on a one-out single by Josh Johnson in the eighth.
Pierce went the full nine innings, allowed just the three singles, walked none and struck out seven. The Southern Miss signee is now 10-1 and lowered his earned run average to 1.27.
JCJC got the only run it would need in the second inning when Darion Hamilton and Chase Headrick got back-to-back, one-out singles. After a flyout, Chad Guice's grounder in the hole to the shortstop was thrown away at second base, allowing Hamilton to score to make it 1-0.
The Bobcats made it 2-0 in the third when Zach Allen led off with a walk and was sacrificed to second by Ladd Rhodes. After a strikeout, Nick Ray followed with a two-out single to center to score Allen.
JCJC took a 4-0 lead in the fourth. Hamilton led off with an infield single, went to second on a balk and to third on a wild pitch. After a groundout, Ryan Roberts was intentionally walked and Jarrett Jenkins entered for him as a courtesy runner.
After a groundout to the catcher by Guice advanced Jenkins to second, Graham Odom delivered a two-out, two-run single to center score both runners.
The Bobcats closed the scoring with a three-run sixth.
Headrick led off with a walk and Roberts singled. A single by Guice scored Headrick and Odom drove in his third run of the night with a safety squeeze, which scored Jenkins, who had replaced Roberts to make it 6-0. Rhodes then laced a double to right-center, which scored Guice.
Rhodes doubled and singled, while Hamilton singled twice for the Bobcats. Vito Perna added a double with Ray, Headrick, Roberts, Guice and Odom adding singles.
Garrett Radicioni started and took the loss for the Rangers. He went five-plus innings, allowed seven runs (six earned), eight hits, four walks and struck out one. Heath Kitchens pitched final three innings, gave up two hits, walked none and struck out three.