ELLISVILLE, MS (WDAM) - The first two times that archrivals Jones County Junior College and Pearl River Community College had met on the baseball diamond this spring, the defending national champion Bobcats had swept the Wildcats by a combined 21-3.
And for the first two innings of Wednesday night's opening round of the Region 23 Baseball Tournament, it looked like more of the same, with the Bobcats knocking around PRCC starter Peyton Lee for six hits in the first two innings to grab a 4-0 lead.
But then, everything changed, and following a script that would have been rejected in any Hollywood studio as nigh-impossible, the Wildcats pulled off the highly-improbable, stunning the nation's top-ranked baseball team 5-4 in 10 innings at Community Bank Park.
"That's as good a college baseball game as you're going to find," PRCC coach Michael Avalon said. "It was two quality teams going at it with everything on the line.
"But those guys believed it."
And came away with a win for the books in a you-had-to-be-there-to-believe-it fashion.
Down to his team's last strike, pinch-hitter John Moore hit a solo home run on a 1-2 pitch over the wall in right-center field to tie the game 4-4 in the top of the ninth inning.
In the top of the 10th inning, Simon Landry doubled off the left-center-field wall with one out before Lucas Scott dropped a two-out single into short right-center field to score the game-winning run.
PRCC (28-18) scored its last three runs of the game with two outs against the Bobcats (44-3).
"Early on, we had some momentum going, and then we would just kind of it give it away and kind of hand to the other side," JCJC coach Chris Kirtland said. "Pearl River did a good job of taking that momentum and running with it."
Picking up where they left off after going 54-9 and winning the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II World Series, the Bobcats had muscled their way to the top of the 2017 rankings by winning 44 of 46 games coming in to Wednesday's game.
The Wildcats brushed off an 0-4 start to 2017, winning 17 of their next 20 games, before illness (mumps) and injury threatened to derail their season. But PRCC bounced back, including defeating Itawamba Community College in a best-of-three series to reach the Region 23 tourney.
During the regular season, the Bobcats had beaten PRCC 10-0 and 11-3, and Wednesday started in much the same fashion.
Erick Hoard's two-out solo homer, his 13th of the season, put JCJC up 1-0 in the first, and the Bobcats opened the second inning with four consecutive hits that set up a three-run inning.
One run scored on an overthrow from the outfield on Jacob Hiatt's double, the second scored on a wild pitch by Lee and the third on a bases-loaded walk by Hoard.
But the game shifted in the third inning.
Ben Stiglets, who entered the game with an 11-0 record and had not allowed a hit in the first two innings, hit Noah Nicaud to open the third. After a Logan Walters grounder forced Nicaud at second, Bryson Medious hit a pop up about 6 feet in front and to the right of home plate.
Stiglets called for the ball, but the wind kept pushing the pop toward the foul line, and it eventually dropped in foul territory, inches from Stiglets' outstretched glove.
The misplay proved costly to the Bobacts, because Medious sent Stiglets' next pitch over the left-field wall to cut JCJC's lead to 4-2.
Avalon called Medious' second homer of the year the turning point in the PRCC dugout.
"Things looked bad early," Avalon said, "but we stuck to the game plan, get through the first three innings without them knocking us out, because that's what they do.
"They're good. They're a quality team and that's what they do, the punch you in the mouth. But Bryson Medious, who played (at JCJC) last year, he kind of punched them back. He made it 4-2 and let us know, 'Hey, we're going to be all right.'"
After getting out of the bases-load jam in the second inning, Lee settled in, allowing just three more hits over the next four innings and keeping the Bobcats off the scoreboard. He threw 119 pitches in six innings, allowing four runs on nine hits, walking three and striking out four.
PRCC pulled within 4-3 on singles by Landry, Scott and Donte Peters, ending Stiglets' evening and bringing in Will Freeman from the bullpen to get the final out.
Freeman and PRCC reliever Parker Dungan dueled through the next two scoreless innings, until the ninth.
Protecting the one-run lead, Freeman appeared in command. He struck out Austin Moffett and pinch-hitter Brody Bray, and had Moore in a hole before the sophomore lashed a Freeman fastball deep into the night for his second home run of the season.
Colby White (6-2) protected the lead in the bottom of the inning, sandwiching a pair strikeouts around a flyout to send the game into extra innings.
Freeman (3-1) got the first out in the 10th, but gave up the double to Landry. Freeman got a fly ball for the second out, but Scott dumped a little flare into no man's land in shallow right-center to score Landry.
White then finished off the Bobcats, capping a stretch of nine, scoreless innings by striking out the side in the 10th inning.
"They pitched it well," Kirtland said. "They shut us out for nine, consecutive innings, and that's the first time we've been shut out for nine, consecutive innings all year. We had one shutout all year and that was seven innings.
"So, they had the timely hits and they really pitched well, and we went kind of stagnant and really didn't capitalize on many opportunities out there."
Each team finished with 10 hits, though JCJC squandered some of its opportunities, having runners picked off at each of the three bases and another doubled off running on a fly ball.
PRCC got a double and two singles from Scott, while Landry had a double and single. Hudson Harris and Jonathan Parker each had two singles for JCJC.
Sixth-seeded PRCC will face fourth-seeded Hinds Community College (36-16) at 6 p.m. Thursday, while the top-seeded Bobcats face fifth-seeded East Central Community College (33-16) in a noon elimination game Thursday.
In Wednesday's other opening round games, Hinds defeated Louisiana State University-Eunice (45-10) and Northwest Mississippi Community College (32-17) beat East Central 8-1.