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Eagles face familiar foe, shoot for familiar result

PCA coach Randy Wright, left, congratulates Justin Boler after Boler hit a home run in a playoff win over Wilkinson Christian last week. (Melanie Duncan ThortisThe Vicksburg Post)

[05/04/04] Randy Wright is very respectful, even a little sympathetic, when he talks about Franklin Academy.

For three years, Wright and his Porters Chapel teams have heaped loads of heartbreak and misery on the Cougars. Like a pitcher going for a perfect game, the numbers are simple eight up, eight down.

Close wins. Blowouts. Regular-season setbacks and playoff demolitions. Through all of them, the Cougars have picked themselves off the mat and come back to challenge the Eagles again and again.

It’s similar to what PCA went through while battling University Christian, a perennial power at the time, in the late 1990s, Wright said. He admires the way Franklin has handled itself through the adversity, and wishes them the best after he and his Eagles do their best to make life miserable for the Cougars one more time.

PCA (25-1) and Franklin hook up tonight in Winnsboro, La., in Game 1 of the Academy-A South State championship series. PCA has won eight straight against the Cougars dating back to 2002, including a two-game sweep of last year’s South State finals and two meetings this season.

“They really are a good team. We’ve just come out on top every time,” said PCA pitcher Ryan Hoben (8-1), who will start tonight’s game. “We’ve got to keep playing hard and hopefully things will go our way. (The streak) does give us confidence, but we’ve got to keep going out and playing hard.”

The outcome of the games between Franklin and PCA has gotten more and more one-sided as time goes on. Three of the first four meetings were decided by two runs or less. In the last five games, however, PCA has outscored the Cougars 45-10.

Despite that, Franklin has kept coming. In their first game against PCA this season, the Cougars held a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning before losing 5-2.

Then, on April 16, Franklin squandered an early 3-1 lead by allowing five runs in the third inning. PCA won, 9-4.

“We haven’t played our best game against them either time this year,” PCA infielder Chip Lofton said. “We’ve just got to jump on them early and often.”

Doing that in Game 1, as well as the series, would be the key, Wright said.

In the MPSA playoffs, Games 2 and 3 are played as a doubleheader on Friday.

That format stretches a pitching staff thin and puts an enormous amount of pressure on the team that loses Game 1.

“It’s going to be very important to get a win on Tuesday. It’s going to be very difficult to go out and win two on Friday,” Wright said. “I don’t want to have to face that uphill battle.”