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Meridian clips Co-Lin

POPLARVILLE — Eight strikeouts from Dusty Davis and a home runfrom Kyle Ginn were all the Meridian Community College Eaglesneeded Monday to eliminate the Copiah-Lincoln Wolves in the MACJCState Tournament on the campus of Pearl River Community College.Meridian, ranked 12th nationally, held off a late Co-Lin rally towin the contest 3-2 in seven innings.

“We played a rough and tough team today,” said Meridian headcoach Mike Federico. “We took the lead early and were fortunate tohold on, before they starting hitting the ball in the seventh.”

The Eagles (40-9) took a 1-0 lead in the first inning off a solohomer from Kyle Ginn, the brother of Co-Lin outfielder Casey Ginn.Kyle Ginn collected his eighth blast of the year for theEagles.

“Kyle’s hit was big,” added Federico. “Their pitcher wasn’tgiving up much, the whole game. So getting a hit like that earlywas huge.”

Co-Lin freshmen Ryan Belanger started the game and went thedistance. The crafty right-hander, allowed one earned run and twowalks in seven innings of work He struck out eight Meridianbatters.

“Ryan pitched a good game,” said Co-Lin pitching coach BryanNobile. “You can’t ask for much better. One earned run in seveninnings and most of the time you win. Overall we should ofwon.”

The Wolves spotted Meridian an additional two runs, one in thesecond and one in the fourth for a 3-0 Eagle lead. Dusty Davis, alefty and a North Pike graduate, baffled the Wolves for six and ahalf innings. His twisting curveball and changeup kept severalCo-Lin batters off track. He allowed one hit, until Co-Lin answeredback in the bottom of the seventh.

“Dusty pitched a really good game,” continued Federico. “Heusually pitches in relief, but with today’s circumstances, withlimited pitching he gained the start.”

Co-Lin’s struggles with Davis came to an end with two outshanging over them in the bottom of the seventh frame. The Wolveswere aided by a error and a Jody Britt single. Brookhaven productJustin Sykes doubled two runs home for a one run deficit, beforeDavis finally got freshman catcher Guy Alleman to fly out.

“We had to make contact, and when we did it wasn’t at an idealtime,” said Co-Lin field master Keith Case. “We looked tired todayand we were. We’ve played three elimination games in threedays.”

Davis collected the win for Meridian with eight strikeouts andone walk. He allowed four hits in seven innings of work.

“Give their pitcher Davis credit,” added Case. “He pitched agreat game. His location was right on target.”

Case’s Wolves must turn around and play the Region 23 Tournamentat Hinds beginning on Wednesday, a day earlier than anticipated.Co-Lin will meet the host Eagles in the first round at 2 p.m.,while LSU-Eunice faces Pearl River beginning at 7 p.m. Thetournament is double elimination.

“Coming into today’s game, I thought we weren’t going to playthe regional until Thursday.” continued Case. “One day makes a bigdifference, especially with our pitching.”

Pearl River 10, Meridian 2

Sophomore Rhyne Hughes hit a pair of two run homers to givePearl River’s Wildcats (42-8)their first state championship. Hughesan athletic 6-foot-2, 212-pound Ole Miss signee, leads the nationwith 17 homers this season.

“Rhyne’s helped us a lot this year,” said third year Pearl Rivercoach Jay Artiges. “I’m proud of all my guys, we’re really workedhard to get this.”

Meridian took a 1-0 lead, off a Van Pope home run. Pope, also anOle Miss signee belted his 12th of the year. Hughes added histowering shots in the first and third frames, for a 5-1 Wildcatlead after three.

“I just did what I had to do,” said Hughes. “This is the thirdtime we’ve played them in three days, it’s nearly turned intorivalry between us and them.”

Meridian beat Pearl River 3-2 in 11 innings Saturday. TheWildcats collected a 4-2 decision Sunday night over theEagles,handing them their first loss of the double-eliminationtournament.

Pearl River sophomore Thomas Royals (11-1) collected the win,striking out six and walking one in seven innings of action. Heallowed five hits.

Eagles sophomore Chris Moffett (6-2), another Ole Miss signee,suffered the loss with three strikeouts and three walks.

Meridian resumes play Thursday hosting Delgado, La. in theirDivision I regional at 7 p.m. Federico said Natchez native and OleMiss signee Chris Rayborn (8-0) will start the contest.

“It’s region time now and everybody’s undefeated,” saidFederico. “You have to win those in order for your season tocontinue.”