The ‘bat’ stays in Wesson as CLCC sweeps Southwest MS

Published 9:00 am Saturday, April 20, 2024

Copiah-Lincoln Community College and Southwest Mississippi in Summit renewed their traditional baseball rivalry on Tuesday with a little extra to play for as the schools once again met in a two-game, sponsored doubleheader known as “The Coca-Cola Classic.”

The event has a wooden bat that serves as the traveling trophy that resides for a year with whichever school wins the series.

Second year Co-Lin head coach Adam Chamblee and his Wolf Pack made sure that they didn’t have to leave the bat with the Bears as Co-Lin won the opener 11-5 and held off a Southwest comeback attempt in the finale for a 5-4 victory.

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The bat has been living in limbo in Wesson since 2020, when Co-Lin beat Southwest 9-5 a few weeks before COVID-19 wiped out the rest of the season. The Wolves took the trophy from Southwest in 2018 with a three-game sweep and then won three more games in the series to retain it again in 2019.

Originally dreamed up as a way to enhance the rivalry by radio personality Robbie Hamilton and his “Chasing Foul Balls” crew, the series was revived this year by Southwest Media Group’s Adam Northam.

The opener was a nine-inning affair, and Co-Lin struck first in the top of the first when freshman outfielder Tucker Jones scored on a wild pitch. Jones, a product of Northwest Rankin High whose dad Mark played catcher at Co-Lin, is leading the Wolves in most offensive categories including batting average (.386), hits (61), and RBIs (27). The speedy Jones has also stolen a team best 20 bases.

Lucas Harrington, a right-handed pitcher from Lafayette Parish, got the start on the hill for Co-Lin in the opener. Harrington pitched four innings and gave up three runs on two hits. He walked six, struck out three, and gave up just one earned run while getting a no decision.

When CLCC went to the bullpen, they called on Brookhaven Academy alum Judson Griffin to take over in the fifth, with Southwest leading 3-2.

Griffin, the 2023 Daily Leader All-Area MVP, earned his first ever college win with a masterful appearance. Griffin hit all his spots and gave up one run while striking out one and walking one in four innings. Sophomore Jayden Duncan (West Marion) pitched the ninth inning for the Wolves.

What helped Griffin’s cause was an offensive explosion, as CLCC scored one run in the sixth, two runs in the seventh, three runs in the eighth and three more runs in the ninth inning. The Wolves used 15 hits to score their 11 runs.

Jones hit one double as did sophomores Hagan Coumbe (Central Hinds), Brentley Berry (Simpson Academy), and Isaac McClenty (Ridgeland High).

McClenty, who bats in the No. 9 hole for the Wolves, also hit a home run and drove in two runs for CLCC. Freshman Sawyer Dunn (Simpson Academy), the son of Co-Lin baseball alum Chris Dunn, also had a triple for the Wolves in the opener.

With the win secured by a wide margin, Co-Lin turned its attention to getting the sweep in game two, as Chamblee and his squad are in the thick of the MACCC playoff race with six regular season games remaining over the next week and a half.

Southwest trotted out their ace, pitcher Luke Lirette, in game two. Lirette has signed to continue his college career at Southeastern Louisiana University.

Co-Lin wasted no time in getting on the board to start game two. Berry drew a leadoff walk and then moved up on a single by Jones. Berry later scored on a single by sophomore JD Weed. Weed is a product of Copiah Academy who committed to East Mississippi out of high school and played at Meridian CC before making his way back closer to home in Wesson.

Jones scored to make it 2-0 for the Wolves on a sacrifice fly by Jordan McKenzie (Franklinton, La.).

SMCC tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom half of the first, but Co-Lin responded with two runs in the third to take a lead it would not relinquish.

And just like in the first, it was Berry and Jones getting on base and then getting across the plate for the CLCC offense. Berry came home on a Southwest error after a bunt by Jones. Jones ended up on third after the bunt and error and then scored when Weed smoked an RBI double.

The Co-Lin pitching staff made the sweep possible as they got an outstanding performance from sophomore Colby Gollott in game two. Gollott made 23 appearances last season as a freshman reliever on a team that finished 15-35.

A product of St. Martin High in Ocean Springs and a Mississippi College signee, Gollott moved to 5-4 on the season with a complete game win as his transition to a starter has been a boost for the Wolves. He allowed three earned runs while striking out seven, walking three, and giving up five hits. On the season, Gollott has a 3.42 ERA with 83 strikeouts in 71 innings pitched.

Co-Lin and Southwest met back on February 28 in a game played at Hinds Community College in Raymond. The Bears took the matchup 8-4 in 11 innings. Gollott started that game and got a no decision after throwing seven innings.

That non-conference loss to Southwest made Co-Lin 7-9 on the season in late February. The Wolves are now 24-22 and have won seven of their last eight games with a doubleheader at East Mississippi (28-17) on Saturday coming up next. The Wolves then have two series at home next week to close out the regular season against Hinds (21-26) and Coahoma (4-35).

Co-Lin last made the postseason in 2021, losing in the opening round of the Region 23 Tournament at Meridian CC. That CLCC team was led by head coach Clay Smith and assistant coach Jack Edmonson, now the third-year head coach at Southwest.

The 24 games won by the Wolves thus far are the most victories for a Co-Lin team in recent memory, granted that MACCC teams today are allowed to play a larger schedule than in the past. Southwest falls to 20-32 on the year with the pair of losses.

The matchup with East Mississippi on Saturday is a chance for Co-Lin to move up the MACCC standings. EMCC is currently 14-10 in league play while Co-Lin is 12-10 inside the conference, which puts them in seventh place overall amongst the 15 member schools.