TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – East Mississippi Community College's opening-game comeback attempt fell just short as the visiting Lions dropped a pair of season-opening baseball contests, 8-6 and 10-1, to Shelton State Community College during Saturday's doubleheader played at the Shelton State Baseball Complex.
In their nine-inning season opener, the Lions trailed 4-0 after the first two innings and were down 7-1 midway through the contest. The home-standing Bucs reached EMCC starting pitcher Austin Campbell for a first-inning solo home run by Walt Bailey and then added three more scores a frame later on four hits.
After EMCC got on the board in the third inning when back-to-back hits by Al Dumas and Reiley Tate brought home Braxton Lee, Shelton State answered with three additional runs in the bottom of the fourth off sophomore right-hander Reid Blakely to move ahead 7-1.
While freshman right-hander Will Long came in to hold the Bucs in check through three scoreless innings of middle relief, the Lions began to chip away at the lead. Following a two-out RBI single by Dumas in the fifth inning, the visitors loaded the bases to begin the seventh. Lee's run-scoring groundout was followed by Dumas' bases-loaded, two-run single – his third hit of the game - to close the gap to 7-5.
The Lions continued their comeback attempt a frame later when pinch-hit doubles by Beau Bates and Rye McGlothin made it a one-run contest. With the potential tying run in scoring position and only one out, Shelton State's Carson Hall came in to close the door on EMCC by retiring the next two batters and then setting down the Lions in order in the ninth to preserve the victory.
At the top of the batting order, Dumas and Tate combined for five of EMCC's eight total hits in the opener.
The Lions struggled offensively in the seven-inning nightcap as the Shelton State pitching trio of Will Collins, Connor Campbell and Walt Austin limited the visitors to just four hits and combined to strike out 13 EMCC batters. The Lions struck out 24 times during the season-opening doubleheader.
EMCC's only score in the second game came in the third inning when SSCC's Collins walked four straight batters after retiring the first seven Lion hitters he faced, including six straight strikeouts to begin the game.
McGlothin got the Lions' first hit of the nightcap with a leadoff single in the fourth inning. The freshman out of New Hope High School also smacked a leadoff double in the sixth during his first collegiate start. Other than that, EMCC could only generate consecutive singles by Tate and Austin Beech in the fifth inning, but they were left stranded at the corners.
Meanwhile against EMCC's pitching trio comprised of starter Chance Denson and relievers Konner Copeland and Josh Smith, the Bucs put up four multiple-run innings during the second game. Aided by seven walks in the contest, Shelton State scored twice in the second and sixth innings along with producing back-to-back, three-run frames during the third and fourth innings.
Coach Brett Kimbrel's EMCC Lions are scheduled to participate in the Rush Invitational hosted by East Central Community College, Feb. 21-23, in Decatur. They are slated to take on Mississippi Gulf Coast at noon and Bossier Parrish at 5 p.m. on Friday (Feb. 21) before coming back two days later to meet Jefferson College and Wallace State at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., respectively, on Sunday (Feb. 23).
Contact: David Rosinski, EMCC Sports Information Director