Games wanted, willing to travel. That's the message the MCC baseball program put out to teams all across the country after having the vast majority of their early season games cancelled due to weather. Northeast Mississippi Community College out of Booneville, MS answered the call and invited the Tigers to a partake in a "Showdown of the Tigers" in Corinth, MS on a turf field at Corinth High School.
With MCC on spring break, the team packed their bags and hit the road for a pair of double-headers played on Tuesday, March 12 and Wednesday, March 13. MCC entered the series at 0-5, while the hosting Tigers came in at 7-5.
Game one of the series got off to a rough start for the visiting Tigers as after a three up – three down top of the first inning, starting pitcher, Walter Hernandez struggled with his location. Hernandez walked the first Northeast Mississippi batter, but battled back to strike out the second batter of the inning. After a stolen base, Hernandez plunked the hitter in the three hole to put runners on first and second before the cleanup batter, Tyler Samaniego doubled to right-center. The shot scored two runners and Samaniego advanced on the throw to the plate and was able to score. Hernandez retired the next two batters, but the damage had been done and the Tigers trailed 0-3 after one inning.
From there, both pitching staffs worked clean innings until the bottom of the fifth. In the bottom of the fifth, a hit batter, a walked batter, and a pair of stolen bases put runners on second and third for Samaniego. Again, the cleanup batter came through for Northeast Mississippi as he singled to center to plate two runs. Hernandez induced a fly out to center to end the inning. After five, the home team led 5-0.
Jimmy Kurka took the mound for MCC in the sixth and gave up one run on one hit and three walks. Heading into the top of the seventh and final inning, MCC trailed 0-6.
The visiting team didn't stop fighting though. Elijah Bergeron reached first on a throwing error by the Northeast Mississippi. Bryce Vinyard replaced Bergeron as a pinch runner before Luis Menendez grounded into a 6-3 putout, but Vinyard advanced to second. Sophomore, Nick Hagen then earned a walk to put runners on first and second with one out for Candido Encarnacion. Encarnacion singled to center to score Vinyard and get MCC on the scoreboard, 1-6. Reece Blay then struck out swinging to bring the Tigers to their final out.
Still, the game was far from over. Travon Hughes reached on a walk to load the bases and bring up Tyler Coleman. Coleman, a freshman from Victoria, TX, launched a grand slam on a 1-0 count to bring the visiting team to within one.
The blast incited Northeast Mississippi to bring in Ty James to attempt to close the door on MCC. James walked the first batter he saw, Tom Josten, to bring up Ryan Carter. Carter rolled over on a ball and sent a grounder to Northeast Mississippi third baseman, Ramsey Ivy for what appeared to be the final out of the game. However, Ivy made his second throwing error of the inning allowing Carter to safely reach first and Josten to advance to third.
With two outs and runners on the corners, Bryce Vinyard, who had replaced Bergeron as a pinch runner, stepped to the plate. Vinyard, a sophomore from Bloomfield, IA, struck out looking to end the rally and the game. Northeast Mississippi escaped with a 6-5 victory.
The second game of the series featured Jacob Everaert on the mound for MCC and Dylan Hitchcock throwing for Northeast Mississippi.
After the first two innings of the game were played cleanly by both sides, the visiting Tigers got on the board first via a Tom Josten solo homerun on a 2-2 count with two outs.
The fourth inning and top of the fifth went by scoreless before the home team got on the board with a big bottom of the fifth.
After a pair of hits, a strikeout, and a walk, Simmons Sowell stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. Sowell singled to center to plate two runs. Sowell advanced to second on the throw to the plate to put runners on second and third. Another walk again loaded the bases and the Tigers brought in PJ Maldonado Rodriguez. The sophomore walked the first batter he faced to bring in the third run of the inning. Another walk brought in a fourth run before Tyler Samaniego flied out to left to end the inning.
Down 1-4 with just six out remaining, the visiting Tigers rallied! Tom Josten got the inning started with by earning a walk. He later stole second base. Luis Menendez then smacked a double to put runners on second and third for Elijah Bergeron. Bergeron singled to center to score Josten and Menendez and bring the score to 3-4.
Blay walked to load the bases for Quin Hall who struck out swinging to leave the bases loaded with two outs. The next two visiting batters, Joel Torrealba and Tyler Coleman, each got hit by pitches to score runners to tie the game 4-4 with the bases still loaded.
Tom Josten then singled to center field. After a series of ill-advised throws, Blay, Torrealba, and Coleman all scored and Josten moved all the way to third base. A wild pitch on ball four to Ryan Carter allowed Josten to score from third. Finally, Luis Menendez struck out swinging to end the half inning, but not before the Tigers scored eight runs on just four hits to take a 9-4 lead.
The home team went down in order in the bottom of the sixth before both teams scored one run in the seventh and MCC picked up the 10-5 win for their first victory of the season.
PJ Maldonado Rodriguez got credited with the win for MCC while Dylan Gatlin took the loss for Northeast Mississippi.
Jacob Medcalf got the nod to start on the bump for MCC to start game three while Jake Christa was on the mound for Northeast Mississippi.
The visiting Tigers struggled at the plate early as their first nine batters were retired in order. Meanwhile, the home team plated single runs in the first two innings and a pair of runs in the third to take a 4-0 lead.
MCC broke up the perfect game bid in the fourth inning as Elijah Bergeron singled to right field with two outs. Unfortunately for the visiting team, Nick Hagen then grounded out to the second baseman to end the half inning.
Northeast Mississippi then added three runs in the bottom of the fourth on two hits and a walk.
In the fifth, the visiting team again went down in order before blanking Northeast Mississippi to keep the score at 7-0.
MCC finally got a run across as Tom Josten launched a solo shot over the left field fence with two outs. Northeast Mississippi responded with a run in the bottom of the sixth to head to the final frame up 8-1.
Looking to rally, the visiting Tigers sent the heart of their order to the plate. Elijah Bergeron led the inning off with a line out to second before Nick Hagan went down swinging. Down to just one out, Candido Encarnacion gave MCC hope with a solo shot to left to make the score 8-2. However, the next batter, Quin Hall lined out to the first baseman to end the game.
The final game of the series saw MCC send David Davila to the mound. The sophomore from Venezuela struggled in his two innings as he gave up seven earned runs on seven hits and three walks.
The top of the first saw Candido Encarnacion record the first hit for the visiting team before Elijah Bergeron grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the half inning. After Davilla struck out Bryce Stanton to open the bottom of the first, a pair of hits and an error allowed the home team to plate two runs.
After allowing the single MCC run in the top of the second, Northeast Mississippi exploded for five runs in the bottom half of the inning as MCC aided the home team by committing three errors while allowing five hits.
The home team led 7-1 after two innings and extended the lead to 8-1 heading into the fifth.
Travon Hughes led off the top of the fifth for the visiting Tigers and reached base on a bunt. Joel Torrealba then doubled to deep left center to put runners on second and third with nobody out. Bryce Vinyard was sent to the plate as a pinch hitter and scored Hughes on a sacrifice fly to left field. With a runner in scoring position, the next two batters were retired in order as the home team went to the plate up 8-2.
Smelling blood, the home team played aggressive baseball in the bottom of the fifth and plated four runs on a single out to ten-run MCC in the final game of the series.
When the Tigers returned from Northeast Mississippi, they came back to a field that was no longer covered in snow. Their next scheduled games, weather pending, will take place at Kirkwood Community College on Wednesday, March 27 when the Tigers and Eagles meet for a double header.