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Porters Chapel shooting to clinch conference title

[4/16/04]Without a first-round bye for the first time in three years, the Porters Chapel Academy Eagles were already expecting to start the playoffs a little earlier than usual. As it turns out, they’ll be starting even sooner than they thought.

PCA travels to face Franklin today with the Conference 5-A championship on the line. A win would give PCA its fourth straight conference title, while a loss will force a one-game playoff at a neutral site on Saturday.

“It should be electric over there,” PCA coach Randy Wright said. “It’s exciting having an opportunity to play in a championship game. Every year it’s been clinched by now, so it’s nice to have to work a little bit.”

Since they became conference rivals in 2002, PCA and Franklin have developed a one-sided rivalry. Both have been among the best teams in Class A, but Franklin has never beaten the Eagles in seven tries.

The winning streak includes a two-game sweep in the 2003 South State finals and a 5-2 PCA win earlier this season. In their last meeting, on March 23, the Eagles rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the sixth inning to win 5-2. It was one of only two times PCA has been held under 10 runs this season.

The loss to PCA is the only blemish on Franklin’s conference record. Like the Eagles, the Cougars have run roughshod over the rest of the conference in compiling a 12-1 record. PCA improved to 13-0 with a forfeit win over Tallulah on Wednesday.

The game against Tallulah was rained out Tuesday, and Wednesday was a no-play day for the Mississippi Private Schools Association. Tallulah’s coaches didn’t want to reschedule for this week, and forfeited instead, Wright said.

Both PCA and Franklin are heavy favorites to advance deep into the playoffs, and the Eagles were preparing for a rematch in the South State finals May 4-7.

“It’s going to be a playoff atmosphere. It’s a must-win situation,” PCA third baseman Humphrey Barlow said. “It’s kind of a warmup for the South State championship series. They’ll have seen our best and we’ll have seen their best.”