PERKINSTON — The winner of this week's MACJC best-of-three playoff series between Mississippi Gulf Coast and Northwest might be determined by who keeps the ball in the park more often.
Each team has hit 59 home runs this year, tied for 10th in NJCAA Division II and first in the MACJC.
"They can really swing the bats," Gulf Coast coach Rodney Batts said. "We're going to have to go up there and pitch well. The ball kind of jumps out of that park. Both teams have hit a lot of home runs. You've got to stay down in the zone."
Game 1 starts Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Jim Miles Field, with Game 2 on Friday at 3 p.m. A third game, if necessary, would be played immediately following the second.
Admission to the games will be $5 for all ages. No pets are allowed in the stadium.
The games will be streamed at http://nwccrangers.com/watch.
Both teams have individuals who are rewriting school record books. Brandon Parker (Fr, West Harrison/Saucier) has 20 home runs to break Adam Huddleston's mark of 19 in 1998. That's second in the NJCAA this year, and his 71 RBI are third in the country.
Brant Blaylock tied the Rangers record with his 17th home run. Hayden Leatherwood has 15 home runs, including round-trippers in seven of his last eight games.
"Leatherwood and Blaylock are two of the better hitters in our league," Batts said. "They just happen to be on the same team. It's going to be tough."
Gulf Coast will counter with a pitching staff led by Josh Lewis (So, Theodore/Mobile Ala.). The left-hander is 8-1 with a 2.11 ERA. His wins and ERA are 13th best in the NJCAA.
The Bulldogs will be able to use their whole staff against the Rangers, a change from the regular season where two days of doubleheaders a week limits puts at least two starters off limits each game.
"You've got your whole arsenal to work with," Batts said. "We'll sit down as a staff and figure out who we're going to use where. It's good to have all your pitchers. Everybody will be on go."
The Bulldogs won seven of their last eight.
Northwest beat Gulf Coast twice in a doubleheader sweep on April 13, but both wins were by one run. The Rangers closed their season by winning 18 of 22 games.
"You get to this time of the year, it's what you expect," Batts said. "There aren't going to be any easy games."
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