PCA’s baseball season ends with sweep against Newton County Academy

Published 10:35 pm Thursday, April 25, 2024

Porter’s Chapel did its best to earn a “Comeback Kids” label in its baseball playoff series against Newton County Academy.

Unfortunately, the Generals were not having any of it.

PCA overcame a five-run deficit in the sixth inning to tie the game, but Newton regained the lead in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Logan Heidelberg and beat the Eagles 9-8 in Game 2 of a first-round MAIS Class 3A playoff series on Thursday.

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Newton County Academy (15-9) swept the best-of-three series with a pair of one-run victories and advanced to face Prentiss Christian or River Oaks in the second round next week.

“We’re better than that team. No doubt. My nine is better than their nine. They were mentally better than us. That’s the bottom line,” PCA coach Rob Riggin said. “They didn’t let the error get them down. They didn’t let the strikeout get them down. They didn’t let the hit by pitch get them down. They did what they were supposed to, mentally, and we didn’t.”

Porter’s Chapel (18-12) was swept despite having some staggering statistical advantages in the series.

Its batters drew 21 walks in the two games — 10 in Game 1 and 11 in Game 2 — while its pitchers only walked two.

The Eagles, though, short-circuited their chances with a steady stream of mental and physical mistakes that shifted the run total in Newton’s favor. Four errors in Game 1 led to five unearned runs and a 7-6 loss.

In Game 2, the Eagles committed three more errors that led to four unearned runs. A two-out error extended a four-run rally in the top of the fifth inning that gave Newton a 7-3 lead, and a throwing error on a bunt in the sixth allowed another run to score.

In the seventh inning, Ty Thrash drew a one-out walk, stole second base and moved to third on a balk. Heidelberg followed with a fly out to center field that was deep enough to bring in what turned out to be the winning run.

Other mental mistakes, like failing to take an extra base on a dropped pop up in the sixth inning and throwing to the cut-off man rather than home plate on a sacrifice fly, were also costly for PCA.

“We’ll make a Derek Jeter play and the next routine ball will go between our legs. That’s mental. That’s not physical,” Riggin said. “I have faith in all these guys. I know what they can do. We do well in practice and it just doesn’t carry over to a game. We’ve done that all year.”

PCA lost Game 1 on Tuesday, 7-6, despite a late rally that wiped out most of a five-run deficit. A similarly frustrating script played out in Game 2 on Thursday.

After Newton’s big fifth inning and its single run in the top of the sixth put the Generals ahead 8-3, PCA rallied to tie it in the bottom half.

Newton pitcher Logan Hitt issued four consecutive walks on 17 pitches to bring in a run. A dropped pop up with two outs allowed another run to score, and another bases-loaded walk cut it to 8-6.

Conley Johnston then sliced a double into the right field corner to plate two more runs and tie it at 8.

After Newton regained the lead in the top of the seventh, the Eagles tried to work one more bit of magic. Chase Hearn reached on a bad-hop infield single to put the tying run on base with PCA’s two best hitters coming to the plate and only one out.

John Wyatt Massey flied out to deep center field, however, and Thomas Azlin popped up to second base to end the game and the season.

PCA lost five of its last six games coming down the stretch, and was only 3-6 in its last nine games.

“Good season, disappointing finish,” Riggin said. “We started out kind of slow and picked it up in the middle of the year. The last 10 games, that’s the best pitching we’ve had all year and the bottom of the lineup has just gone down. That’s what hurt us.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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