PERKINSTON — Mississippi Gulf Coast clinched a playoff spot Wednesday with a vitally important sweep of East Central at Ken "Curly" Farris Field, winning 9-1 in eight innings and 5-2.
"I thought our guys played really hard and really well both games," Gulf Coast coach Rodney Batts said. "We swung the bat well as a whole, and we pitched really well."
The Bulldogs' Brandon Parker (Fr, West Harrison/Saucier) broke the school record with his 20th home run to help set the tone for the day in the first inning of Game 1, and Josh Lewis (So, Theodore/Mobile Ala.) picked up his fourth complete game by throwing a two-hitter.
Jamarcus Lang (Fr, Hattiesburg/Hattiesburg) got his second win in as many starts with a gutty 4.2 innings of work, yielding to Nicholas Hertz (Fr, St. Stanislaus/Long Beach) who got a big strikeout on the way to his first save.
Gulf Coast improved to 31-13 overall, 15-11 in MACJC. The Bulldogs are seventh in the conference standings, and there's still a chance they could earn a home playoff series with a sweep of Northeast on Saturday.
Fifth-place East Central is 29-51, 16-10.
Dylan Menhennett (So, Biloxi/Biloxi) staked Gulf Coast to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning of Game 1 with his 10th home run. Two batters later, Parker parked the record-breaker to deep left-center.
"It's an honor to hold the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College school record for home runs," Parker said. "It's an awesome feeling."
Parker passed Adam Huddleston, who hit 19 in 1998.
From there, Lewis was on cruise control. Pitching coach Eric Ebers said calling pitches for him Wednesday was a like playing a video game. Lewis (8-1) struck out nine and walked two. His ERA is now 2.10.
"It was a good day," Lewis said. "I'm glad we could clinch a playoff spot. Hopefully, we can get some help and earn a chance to host."
Parker also had a double among his three hits and drove in three. Chase Fagan (R-So, Hancock/Poplarville) had three hits, including a double, and Alden Davis (Fr, Pascagoula/Pascagoula) and Ike Williams (Fr, St. Martin/Biloxi) had two hits each.
Lang allowed a solo home run to lead off the second game, then loaded the bases with one out before pitching out of the jam. He loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth before getting a strikeout to end the threat.
"It's all instinct," he said. "I knew if I didn't get out of it, I'd get pulled out of the game. When I get two strikes, I have to give 100 percent or it'll be a bad result."
He got into more trouble in the fifth, and after allowing one run to cut the lead to 4-2, Batts made the call to the pen. Lang pitched 4.2 innings, allowing five hits while striking out eight.
"He battled through some tough innings," Batts said. "He had two innings with the bases loaded and get big strikeouts. I told him when I took him out how proud I was of him. He loves the game, he's a good teammate, and I'm glad to see it paying off for him."
Batts brought in Hertz to face a fellow lefty. He got ahead 0-2 on curveballs, wasted another and then ended the inning with a slider.
"I just wanted to get him out any way possible and get back in the dugout," said Hertz.
"I told him at the end of the game that was the biggest out of the game," said Batts.
Hertz didn't allow a hit in 2.1 innings, striking out two and walking one.
The Bulldogs erased that 1-0 deficit in the third when Menhennett bunted home a runner. Davis followed and smoked a three-run homer, his eighth, to make it 4-1.
Logan McGrew (So, Sumrall/Sumrall) had an RBI double in the fifth for the final margin.
First pitch in Saturday's regular-season finale will be at 1 p.m. The Bulldogs will celebrate Sophomore Day before the first game.
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