ELLISVILLE, MS (WDAM) - Jones County Junior College's one-two pitching punch of Will Freeman and Tyler Spring proved too much for Pearl River Community College Tuesday at Community Bank Park.
Freeman struck out a season-high 18 Wildcats over a scoreless nine innings as the third-ranked Bobcats took a 2-0 victory in the opening game of a Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges' baseball doubleheader.
Spring and reliever Bryce Fagan combined to strike out another 11 PRCC batters in a seven-inning 4-1 decision in the nightcap that ran the Bobcats' winning streak to 14 consecutive games.
With the two wins, the Bobcats (33-8, 18-4 MACJC) leapfrogged fourth-ranked PRCC (31-9, 17-5) into first place in the MACJC baseball standings.
"Coming in, we had chance to battle for first place in the (league)," JCJC coach Chris Kirtland said. "Those guys have been playing great all year and I believe our guys have as well. It was fun to get after one another (Tuesday) and give ourselves a chance to win a championship.
"Our midweek rotation, Freeman and Spring, is a strong duo going into a doubleheader with. We knew we had to play clean baseball and pitch it well to have chance to beat those guys because they pitch it very well and play good defense as well. (Tuesday), we just happened to scratch the scoreboard enough."
Indeed. JCJC's offense in the opener consisted of catcher Tate Pepper's first home run of the season, a solo shot in the second inning that put the Bobcats up 1-0. JCJC added an unearned run in the fifth inning when a throwing error on a steal attempt allowed Miguel Morgan to score from third.
Freeman (6-1) did the rest. The University of Alabama signee allowed five hits and walked none, and worked his way through the few difficulties he encountered.
PRCC put men on second and third with one out in both the seventh and ninth innings and both times the Wildcats came up empty, as Freeman got the last two outs in each of those innings on strikeouts.
It marked the first time PRCC had not scored in a game this season.
In fact, the Wildcats had scored less than three runs in a game only once. Tuesday, that happened.
"It was a combination of two things," PRCC coach Michael Avalon said. "One, they were really good on the mound, and two, our approach (at the plate) was not very good.
"You do those two things and put those two things together, there's a good chance it's going to be bad results."
PRCC starter Camden Dusang (6-1) took the loss, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits in 4 1/3 innings. He walked walk one and struck out one. Reliever Drake Nightengale allowed four hits and walked three over 4 2/3 scoreless innings.
Pepper had three of the Bobcats' nine hits. Third baseman Robbie Woody had two singles and second baseman Steven Matthews added a double. PRCC got two doubles from designated hitter Shemar Page, while second baseman Scooter Ginn and center fielder Matt Taylor each doubled.
In the second game, Spring (7-1) got a double-play ball on a popped-up bunt attempt after the first two Wildcats reached base to open the game.
After that, PRCC never had more than one runner on the bases at a time.
Jake Mason's run-scoring single off PRCC starter Miles Smith (6-2) gave the Bobcats a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, but the Wildcats tied it in the third inning when Taylor singled, stole second and scored on Derek Eberly's double.
But the Bobcats retook the lead for good in the bottom of the inning when Luther Woullard walked, moved to second base on a wild pitch and scored on an error.
JCJC pushed across another run in the fifth inning when R.J. Brown doubled, moved to third on an error and scored on a sacrifice fly by Woody.
The Bobcats wrapped up the scoring when catcher Hudson Harris popped his second homer of the season, a solo shot to left field, to lead off the eighth inning.
Spring, a Mississippi State commitment, allowed one run on two hits over six innings, walking two and striking out nine. Fagan, a Louisiana Tech University signee, picked up his fifth save of the season with a 1-2-3 ninth inning that included two more strikeouts.
Smith allowed three runs (one earned) on two hits over 4 1/3 innings. He walked four and struck out four. Reliever Jerrod Meggs allowed a run on one hit over 1 2/3 innings.
"All day, all night, it was great baseball," Kitrtland said. "Those guys on the other side competed their tails off and I was proud of our guys for coming out and competing as well. We were just very fortunate to be on the right end of it."
Each team has six games remaining. JCJC, which will be on the road for the last three, two-game series of the regular season, travels to