EUNICE, La. — No. 18 Mississippi Gulf Coast could not have come up with a better way to start a grueling Friday at the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament, beating Itawamba 14-1 in an elimination game.
Brandon Parker (Fr, West Harrison/Saucier) hit his 24th home run and drove in five runs, backing a strong pitching performance from Kole Kittrell (Fr, Greene County/State Line).
"That's exactly what we had to have to stay in this thing," Gulf Coast coach Rodney Batts said. "No. 1, to stay in this thing and get a win. We played with some energy and swung the bats really well. For Kole to go the distance and it be a five-inning game, it saves some pitching. We've got a ways to go, but that helps."
Gulf Coast will play the nation's No. 1 team, host LSU-Eunice, in a game scheduled to start at 6 p.m. The game will stream at https://livestream.com/BulldogLIVE/events/8211982.
If the Bulldogs win, they would advance to Sunday's championship game and get a day off. A loss would end their season.
They avoided elimination by taking advantage of a two-out error by Itawamba in the second. The Indians (33-17) couldn't make a play at short, and Gulf Coast put up six unearned runs.
Castor Lee (Fr, Gulfport/Gulfport) drove in a run with a single, and Dylan Menhennett (So, Biloxi/Biloxi) walked with the bases loaded. Alden Davis (Fr, Pascagoula/Pascagoula) did the same before Parker doubled in two runs to make it 6-0.
Lee, Ike Williams (Fr, St. Martin/Biloxi) and Menhennett picked up RBIs in the third before Parker smacked a three-run blast.
"They swept us during the regular season," Parker said. "I know they had a game late last night, but we had to take every advantage we could. Our bats are our biggest advantage."
The Indians took LSU-E to the brink on Thursday night, losing 5-4 in 11 innings in a game that finished just shy of midnight.
In the meantime, Kittrell (7-3) was keeping Itawamba in check. He allowed an unearned run in the fourth, but nothing else.
"It was hot but other than that I felt good," he said. "(Pitching) Coach (Eric) Ebers told us last night on the bus to get our minds right and win this one. I did all I could to get us there."
Kittrell needed only 80 pitches to close out the game. He struck out six and walked two, and the Bulldogs didn't need to go the bullpen.
"It was awesome," Parker said. "He stayed around the zone and shoved. That's what Kole Kittrell does."
NJCAA Region 23 Tournament
Wednesday, May 16
Game 1: No. 4 Itawamba 4, No. 3 Meridian 3
Game 2: No. 5 Mississippi Gulf Coast 16, No. 2 Pearl River 6 (8 innings)
Game 3: No. 1 LSU-Eunice 10, No. 6 Hinds 0 (5 innings)
Thursday, May 17
Game 4: Pearl River 8, Hinds 4
Game 5: Meridian 13, Gulf Coast 5 (8 innings)
Game 6: LSU-Eunice 5, Itawamba 4 (11 innings)
Friday, May 18
Game 7: Gulf Coast 14, Itawamba 1 (5 innings)
Game 8: Pearl River (38-10) vs. Meridian (37-12), 3 p.m.
Game 9: LSU-Eunice (52-5) vs. Gulf Coast (36-15), 6 p.m.
Saturday, May 19
Game 10: Game 8 winner vs. Game 9 winner, 3 p.m.
Sunday, May 20
If Necessary Game
Game 11: Game 10 winner vs. Game 10 loser, 1 p.m.
- Schedule may change after game 9 depending on number of one-loss teams
- Winner advances to the 2018 NJCAA Division II World Series as the South District representative
For more information on MGCCC's 10 intercollegiate athletic teams, follow @MGCCCAthletics on Twitter and BulldogLIVE on Facebook, and go to mgcccbulldogs.com.
Sports Information Director
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College