Mississippi Gulf Coast opened MACJC play Tuesday night, keeping its comeback-fueled reputation intact at Pearl River.
The Bulldogs got a split, winning 11-9 in an epic 10-inning, four-hour game then falling 5-3 in the nightcap with the tying runner in scoring position.
"Anytime you go on the road in this league and get a split, that's good," Bulldogs coach Rodney Batts said. "But like I told them after the game, anytime you go on the road and play somebody the caliber of Pearl River and have the chance to win both games -- shoulda won both games - and don't, that's going to come back and haunt you in the end."
Gulf Coast is 10-6 on the season. Pearl River, also playing its first MACJC games, is 16-4. Both teams were coming off long layoffs thanks to scheduling and weather. The Wildcats hadn't played in a week, while Gulf Coast hadn't played since March 5.
Gulf Coast plays at Itawamba on Saturday. The doubleheader starts at 2 p.m.
The Bulldogs return home March 23 when Hinds visits MGM Park.
Gulf Coast needed at least two runs in the ninth inning of the opener, and the Bulldogs got them thanks to sloppy PRCC play. The Wildcats' second error of the inning allowed Tyler Rachel to reach on a ground ball, cutting the deficit to 9-8.
"That's the mentality of our team," Batts said. "They feel like as long as they've got outs to work with then they always have a chance to win. There wasn't any panic in the dugout."
With two outs, Justin Nussbaum struck out for what should have been the ballgame, but the pitch got away and he reached as Marcus Buckley scored.
In the 10th, Slater McCarty doubled in the go-ahead run, then scored on Sam Taylor's single.
Joseph Gennaro closed it out to pick up his first win, finishing 2.2 shutout innings with five strikeouts.
Buckley, Nussbaum, McCarty and Michael Shubert had two hits for the Bulldogs. Nussbaum and Rachel drove in two runs.
The Bulldogs rallied from an early 3-0 deficit by batting around and scoring seven in the sixth inning. Nussbaum's two-run double was the big blow.
But Pearl River immediately rallied for five in its half of the inning, then tacked on what looked like an insurance run in the eighth.
In the second game, Gulf Coast scored twice in a wild third inning that saw Pearl River coach Josh Hoffpauir ejected for protesting a pair of close plays at first.
The Bulldogs took a 2-1 lead, but David Warman (1-1) relieved in the bottom of the inning and allowed four runs after two were out to get tagged with the loss.
Rachel blasted a solo home run in the third, but the Bulldogs would not get any closer.
Buckley had another two-hit game in the nightcap, including a double.
"I thought our mentality was a little bit different. We kind of sat on Game 1 and didn't have the focus and energy in Game 2."