PERKINSTON — Mississippi Gulf Coast was two outs away from a sweep against No. 12 Itawamba but had to settle for a split on Sophomore Day on Sunday at Ken "Curly" Farris Field.
The Bulldogs rallied from a pair of deficits, the last time thanks to homers by Luke Welborn (Fr., Locust Grove Ga./Locust Grove) and Ethan Coleman (Fr., Lucedale/George County) to win the first game 8-6. Gulf Coast led by a run in the seventh inning of the second game before losing 8-4.
"We were really close against a really good team," Bulldogs coach Wes Thigpen said. "I thought we competed against a really good arm in that second game. It was a tough one being so close, but all we ask our guys is to play as hard as you can and see what happens when the dust settled."
Gulf Coast (18-14, 15-9 MACCC) is tied for fourth in the conference with East Central, a game behind Meridian with a trip to play the Eagles on tap Tuesday. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.
The Bulldogs honored 19 sophomores before the doubleheader. Canaan Ray (Fr., Poplarville/Poplarville) was named the winner of the Randy Rouse Award, presented to the sophomore who best exemplifies sportsmanship, unselfishness and loyalty. It is voted on by the team and honors Rouse, a Bulldogs baseball player who died of leukemia in 1992.
Down 6-4 in the seventh inning of the first game, Alex McWhorter (Fr., Mobile Ala./Faith Academy) led off with a walk. Welborn strolled from the on-deck circle with one thought on his mind.
"Before I went up there, I thought that I really hoped that guy would throw me a hanging changeup," Welborn said. "Those are some of the pitches I hit better."
He deposited it over the left-field wall to tie it up, and two batters later Coleman came up hunting a breaking pitch for his second homer of the game.
"I was looking for it all game, every at-bat," he said. "I knew it was coming. I was going to turn-and-burn on it."
He did to put the Bulldogs up 7-6, and McWhorter doubles in an insurance run in the eighth. He took the mound in the ninth to pick up his fourth save of the year, sealing a relief win for Chance Forbes (So., Columbia/Columbia Academy).
Forbes allowed one earned run in 2.2 innings to keep the Bulldogs in the game.
Josh Cary (Fr., Petal/Petal) drove in two runs with three hits including a double. Coleman who had three hits and three RBI, and Tucker Thomas (So., Biloxi/Biloxi) had two hits.
In the nightcap, ICC's Coleton Ausburn kept Gulf Coast shut down until the fourth when Ray and McWhorter led off with singles. Ray scored on a sacrifice fly by Noah Blythe, and McWhorter scampered home on a wild pitch to tie the game at 2.
ICC scored a run in the sixth, but Welborn singled in the tying run before Thomas' walk forced in the go-ahead run.
Itawamba scored five runs after one out in the seventh to steal a sweep from Gulf Coast's grasp. The Bulldogs managed to get the tying run in the on-deck circle in their final at-bat but couldn't get any closer.
"This team is never out of the fight," Thigpen said. "They never want to make the last out and always want to pass it down to their brother."
Drake Henderson (Fr., Sand Hill/Greene County) scattered five hits in six innings of work in a no-decision. Cary had a double for the only Gulf Coast extra-base hit among five safeties.
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BY: Don Hammack
Sports Information Director
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College