Two days later, ECCC comes out on top
By Marty Stamper/special to The Star
DECATUR — After watching her teammates fire blanks with runners in scoring position the previous two innings, Tiffany Thomas rifled a shot down the left-field line to plate Candace Griffin with the winning run as East Central Community College edged Meridian Community College 7-6 in Friday’s completion of Wednesday’s rain-suspended MACJC Central Division softball doubleheader.
ECCC improved to 11-3 in the division and 27-17 overall with the sweep.
Meridian fell to 8-5 and 19-21. Hinds is 10-4 in division play. The top two teams advance to the postseason.
MCC hosts Holmes in a noon tripleheader today, while ECCC hosts Hinds in a doubleheader beginning at 11 a.m.
One win today would give ECCC the division championship.
“We’ve got to come with the same kind of intensity that we had in these two ballgames against Meridian,” said ECCC coach Scott Hill. “Hinds has already shown they’re capable of beating anybody. They’ve got a good offensive team and they’re going to play hard. We’ve got to keep the intensity up to come back and win a ballgame.”
If MCC and Hinds have identical division records, Hinds would advance to the playoffs due to a 3-1 advantage in head-to-head games.
“That’s basically it in a nutshell, but this group here dug a hole for themselves,” said MCC coach Robert Eakins. “They didn’t want to play all year until adversity got their back against the wall. They’ll take what they get.
“They have basically played when they felt like playing and then when they get their backs against the wall, they want to dig down deep, but it’s too late then. You’ve got to play up front.
“East Central has got a fine ballclub and they didn’t panic. They did the things that they had to do.”
ECCC took a 13-8 win in Wednesday’s opener before rain halted the second game with a 6-6 tie.
When play resumed Friday with ECCC batting in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Lady Warriors got runners at second and third with one out, but Shanese Hunter got a pair of groundouts to keep the tie intact. The second out of the inning came when MCC shortstop Courtney Gordon fielded a grounder and gunned down Laura Smith at the plate.
ECCC threatened again in the sixth with runners at second and third with one out, but Hunter got a strikeout and a groundout to escape unscathed.
Griffin and Thomas made sure the seventh inning would be the final one.
Griffin led off with a single when her Texas Leaguer fell in left-center field between three Lady Eagles. After a pair of wild pitches on bunt attempts by Thomas, the sophomore catcher from Union lashed a single down the left-field line as Griffin came home with the game-winner.
“We were wanting her to push the runner over to third with less than two outs. I guess now we’re saying we’re glad she didn’t,” Hill said of the game-winning hit. “She bunted at a ball that was in the dirt, but the ball went to the backstop and we advanced anyway.
“With two strikes, she gets up there and drives one down the line. That was her second hit in the 2 1/2 innings we played today. That was a real satisfying hit because it was a hit against a very good Meridian team. They kept battling. We had our chances and they kept getting out of the inning. I was starting to get worried because we couldn’t push one across.”
Kady Chandler held the Lady Eagles at bay in relief to get the win. She retired all six batters she faced on Friday after setting down all six when she entered the circle on Wednesday.
MCC had a chance to put the Lady Warriors away on Wednesday, leading 6-1 with the bases loaded and nobody out in the top of the third inning.
Three straight ground balls produced no further damage.
ECCC then got a three-run homer from Whitnee White in the bottom of the third and pulled even with two runs in the fourth as Sondreia Hillie tripled in one run and scored on a throwing error on the play.
“We had a chance to break the game open when it was 6-1 and we went up to the plate not disciplined and gave them some added life and they took advantage of it,” Eakins said. “My hat’s off to EC.”