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Embry-led Eagles breeze past Riverdale

Porters Chapel Academy pinch-runner Joseph Ivey slides safely into home as catcher Will Hanna leaps to catch the errant throw during the Eagles’ 7-1 win over Riverdale on Thursday. The Eagles won the playoff series, 2-0. (C. Todd ShermanThe Vicksburg Post)

[5/2/03]Porters Chapel Academy never shifted its offense into high gear Thursday against Riverdale, but it wasn’t a problem. Not when Andrew Embry was plowing through the Rebel lineup like a runaway Mack truck.

Embry allowed one run, three hits, and no walks while striking out eight in seven innings as PCA won 7-1 to complete a two-game sweep of the second-round Academy-A playoff series.

With the win, the Eagles advanced to the South State championship series for the second time in three years. They’ll face the winner of the Amite-Franklin series beginning on Tuesday.

“It’s a big win. We’re glad to be back playing for the South State championship,” PCA coach Randy Wright said. “I’ve been saying it all year, pitching and defense has gotten us where we are, and they got us through this round. We did not hit the ball exceptionally well in the series, but our two pitchers went out and dominated the two ballgames.”

Wes Massey went 2-for-3 with a two-run double, Humphrey Barlow had a two-run double, and Chase Towne drove in one run with a double as PCA (25-2) won its 20th straight game.

Justin Coe doubled and Seth Hay had an RBI single for Riverdale, but that was the most the Rebels could muster in two games against PCA. Riverdale (17-7) managed only one run and four hits in the series.

“It’s hard to win a three-game series when you only can score one run and get four hits. You’re not going to do much,” Riverdale coach Kevin Raupp said.

PCA only had five hits on Thursday, but blew the game open with a four-run outburst in the bottom of the fifth.

With the Eagles holding to a 3-1 lead, Aaron Curry led off the inning with a single, and Embry followed with a walk. After two pop-outs, Barlow delivered a double down the left-field line to bring in two runs and make it 5-1.

“I think that got us fired up a little bit more,” Barlow said. “It definitely put the hurt on them. It was a little icing on the cake.”

The hit staggered Riverdale, and Massey provided the knockout punch.

Ryan Hoben was hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second, and Massey drove a ball off the top of the high wall in right-center. Barlow and courtesy runner Josh Gain scored easily to make it 7-1, and the Rebels were deflated.

“The two runs, we were OK. But when (Massey) hit the fence and brought in two more, you could just see it in the guys like, Oh well. We’ve done the best we can,'” Raupp said.

The runs gave Embry some breathing room, but he didn’t seem to need it.

He hung a pair of curveballs in the fourth inning Coe hit one for a leadoff double, and Hay hit the other for an RBI single then didn’t make many mistakes the rest of the way.

Embry hit Moochie Allen on the top of the helmet with a pitch in the fifth, then picked him off before he threw another pitch. As Allen was caught in a rundown, Embry provided the tag himself and tackled Allen in the process.

Embry then retired the next six batters in order, until Will Hanna reached on a two-out error in the top of the seventh. Eric Hester followed with a single to right, but Embry got Allen to fly to right for the final out of the game.

“That gave me a little more breathing room,” Embry said of the insurance runs in the fifth. “I wasn’t ever really worried when it was 3-1. I was just glad I was able to get some more runs and just throw strikes, and let them put the ball in play.”

Embry (8-1) was just as dominant early in the game, mixing a devastating curveball and a solid fastball to retire the first nine batters he faced.

“They weren’t really hitting the fastball or the curveball, but it was making them look silly throwing the curveball, so we just mixed it in with a mediocre fastball,” Embry said.

That helped the Eagles, who struggled a bit against Hester (7-3). The right-hander allowed only two hits and one earned run until PCA’s fifth-inning rally, but the Rebels hurt themselves with errors and walks.

Curry walked to lead off the bottom of the first and scored on Towne’s double. In the second inning, another leadoff walk to Hoben and three errors led to two more PCA runs and gave the Eagles a 3-0 lead.

Two of the errors came on one play, when Riverdale second baseman Robby Owens dropped a two-out pop fly off the bat of Curry, then made a throw to third that skipped past Kyle Norred, allowing a run to score.

“That’s happened to us all year and we’ve been able to battle back,” Raupp said. “Eric pitched a good game. That’s our number two guy, and he didn’t shut them down, but when you’ve got one through nine like they’ve got, with no holes, it’s hard to shut them down.”