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LCHS advances to finals

PETAL–The Lawrence County Cougars defeated Pearl River Central4-1 Saturday in high school baseball playoff action at Petal CityPark. The Cougars rode the clutch complete-game, 4-hit pitchingeffort of freshman Joseph Evans to stay in the winners’ bracket inthe 4-team, double-elimination tournament.

Lawrence County will play host Petal at 4 p.m. Monday in thefinals The Cougars beat the top-ranked Panthers on Friday night butPetal battled back through the losers’ bracket with wins overMcComb and Pearl River Central Saturday night. Petal has to beatLawrence County twice to advance to the next round. LCHS needs just1 win to advance.

With the win over Pearl River Central, Chris Clark’s Cougarsimproved to 17-12 on the season. The win was the Cougars’ ninthin-a-row, as LCHS was just 8-12 three weeks ago.

“We’re playing pretty well,” Clark said. “We didn’t swingparticularly well today, but Joseph gave us a great effort, and wedefended pretty well. It won’t be easy to beat the top-ranked teamin the state again, but we’re pleased to be in the position we’rein.”

With Lawrence County having to throw three senior pitchers inthe Friday win over Petal, the pressure fell on the shoulders ofthe freshman Evans on Saturday. He came through in fine fashion.Evans struck out just 3 PRC batters, but he issued just 2 freepasses. With the LCHS defense playing relatively clean baseball, itadded up to a big win for the Cougars.

“We didn’t necessarily expect to use Joseph to go all the way,”Clark said, “but we did need a solid performance from our startingpitcher. He gave us more than that.”

Lawrence County took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second onJonathan Stephens’s solo homer. It was Stephens’s fifth homer in 2weeks, his seventh of the season.

Pearl River Central tied it in the bottom of the second, butLawrence County took a 3-1 lead in the top of the third. Both runsscored on wild pitches. It remained 3-1 until the top of theseventh. The LCHS defense played a big role in that, with middleinfielders Trent Hartzog and Jeremy Williams turning ground-balldouble plays.

Lawrence County got an insurance run in the top of the seventh,courtesy of a Casey Williams RBI double.

Williams led the Cougars with two hits. Stephens, Hartzog,Marlon Stanfield, Klein Harbour,

Luke Watts, and Jake Russell each had one.

Colby Hawthorne and Derrick Tortorich had doubles for PearlRiver Central.