PERKINSTON — Mississippi Gulf Coast could not have had a more challenging start to the MACCC schedule, and so far, they're passing the test with flying colors.
The Bulldogs swept No. 4 Northwest Mississippi 9-5 and 4-2, getting a great day at the plate from catcher Tucker Thomas (So., Biloxi/Biloxi) who had a bird's eye view for another great outing by Drake Henderson (Fr., Sand Hill/Greene County).
"Anytime you get a conference sweep, it's really good," Gulf Coast coach Wes Thigpen said. "We had a good outing by Drake Henderson, and you can't ask for me. Our guys competed better than I've seen them compete all year. We fought through four errors in the first game and had some big hits we hadn't had in a while."
Gulf Coast (8-6) has played three teams of the top-11 teams in the NJCAA to start conference play, and the Bulldogs are 5-1. They swept No. 11 Northeast Mississippi at Booneville, and split with No. 9 Hinds at Perk earlier this week.
The Bulldogs are tied for second in the conference a game behind East Central along with Copiah-Lincoln, Itawamba and Jones.
The road doesn't get any easier Wednesday, even it's only a 26-mile trip west to play No. 7 Pearl River. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. in Poplarville.
"It's a great opportunity to come out here and win two games any day no matter who it is," Thomas said. "It's always a bonus when you win two games and walk away knowing you've got a chance to play Pearl River twice next week."
Thomas went 3-for-3 with a two-run homer in the first game. The homer extended the Gulf Coast lead to 8-5 in the seventh inning, and Alex McWhorter (Fr., Mobile Ala./Faith Academy) hit a solo blast in the eighth for more insurance.
Luke Welborn (Fr., Locust Grove Ga./Locust Grove) hit a two-run homer in the first and a solo shot in the fifth. Noah Blythe (Fr., Lexington, Ky./Tates Creek) followed his second with a solo homer of his own two batters later.
In the second game, Josh Cary (Fr., Petal/Petal) doubled to lead the game off and scored on McWhorter's single. Dawson Walters (Fr., Flora/Tri-County Academy) had an RBI groundout for a 2-0 lead later in the inning.
Thomas hit another homer in the second, then got hit by a pitch and scored in the fourth on Cary's groundout.
"Tucker, if he's hitting, it seems like he's going to go 5-for-5 or 6-for-6," Thigpen said. "He's seeing the ball well, and he's been working really had to be more consistent."
Henderson (3-1) didn't need any more offense. His five-hitter featured nine strikeouts and just two walks.
"Drake did a phenomenal job executing all three pitches everywhere in the zone he wanted to," Tucker said. "He got the job done at the end of the day."
For more information on MGCCC's 10 intercollegiate athletic teams, follow @MGCCCBulldogs on Twitter and MGCCCBulldogs on Facebook, and go to mgcccbulldogs.com.
By: Don Hammack
Sports Information Director
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College