NMCC 15, Jackson 8
NEW MADRID -- New Madrid County Central pushed across nine runs in the fifth inning to put away Jackson for a 15-8 SEMO Conference win on Friday.
The Eagles (2-1, 2-0 in the conference) fought back from deficits twice before the decisive fifth.
Jackson (2-4), aided by two Eagle errors, jumped to a 4-0 first-inning lead.
"I was kind of concerned that first inning," said NMCC coach John Jones. "I told the guys we were our own worst enemy. When you're down 4-0 and you haven't even had a chance to bat, it can put a thought in the back of your mind of 'I don't know if this is going to work or not.'"
But the Eagles wasted no time getting back into the game with four runs in the bottom of the first to pull into a 4-4 tie.
"They pulled it together," said Jones. "We knew we could compete with this team and once we got our nerves settled, started playing and started hitting the ball, then we got our confidence back and played better."
Leadoff hitter Jordan Kimball stroked a single to open the home half of the first inning. Following a walk to Andy Gantner, Trey Sullenger poked a double into the gap in right-centerfield to score Kimball with Gantner moving to third.
A walk to Dylan Harris loaded the bases ahead of Matt Whitehead's RBI groundout which plated Gantner with the second run.
With the bases still full of Eagles, Sullenger scored on Colt Pruitt's grounder to second. On the play, Whitehead was forced at second and Pruitt was called out because the umpires ruled Whitehead interfered with the throw to first on the double-play attempt.
Harris, who had apparently scored on the play, was returned to third base. He later scored on an errant throw on a comebacker to Jackson starter and losing pitcher Brett Groening.
NMCC tacked on two runs in the second inning on Gantner's two-run shot over the wall in left-centerfield for a 6-4 lead.
Meanwhile Eagle starting pitcher Kimball kept the Indians off the scoreboard until the fourth frame when Jackson knotted the score at 6.
Jackson added two more runs in the top of the fifth on a two-run single by Taylor Busch to retake the lead at 8-6.
Then came NMCC's big inning.
"It was a chain effect," Jones said. "Once it started, everybody got into it."
Aided by three Jackson errors, the Eagles banged four hits, three for extra bases including a towering three-run homer off the bat of Pruitt.
A hit batsman, followed by two Jackson errors, loaded the bases with no outs.
A forceout at home kept the bases jammed with one out, then Kyle Marshall coaxed a walk to push across the first run of the inning and cut the deficit to 8-7.
Groening was relieved by lefty Zach Gendron who issued a free pass to Kimball, the first batter he faced which forced home another run to tie at 8.
Gantner followed with a two-run double into left-centerfield, his third hit and fourth RBI. He finished the day 3-for-4 at the plate and threw out a baserunner on a steal attempt from his backstop position.
Kimball also had three hits (3-for-3) while Sullenger went 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Pruitt was the other multiple hitter for the Eagles with a 2-for-4 day and three RBIs.
Overall, NMCC's offense produced 13 hits.
With the score at 10-8 favoring NMCC, a Jackson miscue upped the score 11
-8, then Sullenger's Texas League pop to short centerfield scored another Eagle run for a 12-8 advantage.
"Today, we gave them too much free stuff," said Jackson coach Rex Crosnoe. "They're a good hitting team and, when they get the walks and the errors, that's a lot of baserunners."
Pruitt's blast closed the scoring at 15-8.
"He's never hit one, even in practice, let alone hit the highway out there," said Jones. "He had a smile like it was Christmas morning when he came around second base. I'm so happy for him, being a senior and finally getting one." Kimball picked up the complete-game victory in his initial outing of the season.
The Arkansas State University signee didn't have excellent command as evidenced by nine walks, a hit batsman and two wild pitches, but he battled to the end to record his first-ever win over Jackson.
"I can't say enough about the way he pitched," said Jones. "His curveball was breaking high, but he just kept battling. He never got frustrated.
"He's a smart pitcher. He knew that, if he kept throwing fastballs, Jackson was going to put it in the gaps, so he stayed with off-speed pitches and curveballs, (spotting them) inside and outside."
Worried about overworking his ace hurler in his debut outing, Jones said he was in close communication with Kimball between innings.
"He promised me that if there was any problem, he would let me know," said Jones. "He threw a lot more pitches than I think he should have had to throw, but he wanted to beat Jackson. So, I gave him that opportunity and he came through."
Kimball allowed five earned runs on seven hits while striking out eight.
NMCC visits Charleston on Tuesday at 4 p.m.