SENATOBIA — Down five runs after three innings, Mississippi Gulf Coast unleashed a lethal offensive attack coupled with a shutdown relief appearance to beat Northwest 17-8 Saturday to clinch the best-of-three series.
Chase Fagan (R-So, Hancock/Poplarville) had a home run, a triple and two doubles, and Brandon Parker (Fr, West Harrison/Saucier) smashed two home runs and a double. Ty Barnes (So, Petal/Petal) pitched 5.2 innings of shutout ball, allowing four hits.
"When we had the pitching change, all of the outfielders got together in center field and said there was nothing to do but put up some runs," Parker said. "That's what we did. We put up a bunch of runs and a bunch of hits. We had three innings in a row with four runs-plus."
Gulf Coast will play in the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament starting Wednesday at LSU-Eunice. The double-elimination features six teams, including the hosts, MACJC regular-season champs Pearl River, Gulf Coast, Itawamba and Meridian.
The Bulldogs (34-14) trailed 5-1 after three innings, but two back in the fourth on a double by Fagan and an RBI groundout by Fisher Ray (Fr, George County/Bruce).
When Northwest expanded the lead on a three-run homer in the bottom of the inning, Batts turned to Barnes, normally a starter.
"It's my first time coming in as a relief pitcher," he said. "I needed to hold them where they were. I knew our bats would pick up. They got us the runs we needed."
Barnes walked the first two batters he faced, but then retired the next six in a row. That was just in time for the Bulldogs' bats to wake up.
Parker extended his school record to 21 home runs with a two-run shot to right field, and Fagan doubled in another run to make it 8-6. He'd score on a groundout by Cullan O'Shea (Fr, Mary G. Montgomery/Mobile, Ala.).
The first seven MGCCC batters reached in the sixth, with Alden Davis (Fr, Pascagoula/Pascagoula) tying it with a single and Logan McGrew (So, Sumrall/Sumrall) plated three with a double for an 11-8 lead.
Fagan tripled to drive in another run, and Cagle singled to make it 13-8.
"I got them together early in the game and told them I thought we were playing tight the first three innings," Batts said. "I told them to loosen up, relax and play. Whether that had anything to do with it or not, I don't know."
The Bulldogs put the cherry on top in the ninth with four more runs, including home runs by Parker and Fagan. Fagan, the left fielder, is a man of few words, and he summed up an outstanding two days of offense succinctly.
"It means we're going to the regional," he said.
Barnes (8-5) struck out seven and walked two.
"We got a great pitching performance out of Ty," Batts said. "We're down five, and he really held them in check. He gave our offense time to get going."
Fagan finished 4-for-6, and Parker was 3-for-4. Ike Williams (Fr, St. Martin/Biloxi) had a triple and a double, and McGrew doubled twice. Davis, Cagle and Ray had two hits, and eight of nine Bulldogs had hits. All nine reached safely.
"We came up here earlier in the year and got swept, although we were in both games," Batts said. "I think it shows the heart and character of our guys. It shows where their focus was when they came up here. They knew we had a good shot. My hat's off to those guys."
For more information on MGCCC's 10 intercollegiate athletic teams, follow @MGCCCAthletics on Twitter and BulldogLIVE on Facebook, and go to mgcccbulldogs.com.