Mississippi Gulf Coast makes its first appearance in the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament since 2012 on Wednesday, and it's not going to be easy to get through to the World Series.
The fifth-seeded Bulldogs (34-14) play second-seeded Pearl River (37-9), which won the MACJC regular-season championship and earned a bye into the six-team, double-elimination tournament in Eunice, La. First pitch in Game 2 of the day is scheduled for 3 p.m.
"Anytime you get to a tournament like this, it doesn't matter who you play," Gulf Coast coach Rodney Batts said. "It's six of the best teams in the country. It's the toughest regional in the country. All teams are going to have their work cut out for them."
Gulf Coast games from the tournament will be streamed at http://livestream.com/BulldogLIVE. All games will be streamed on the LSU-Eunice website, which has a subscription fee. Complete tournament information can be found at https://athletics.lsue.edu/news/2018/5/12/2018-region-23-baseball-tournament-central.aspx.
Tickets are $10 per day, with children under 12 admitted free.
In other games Wednesday, No. 3 Meridian (36-11) plays No. 4 Itawamba (32-15) at noon, with the 6 p.m. game featuring No. 1 LSU-Eunice (50-5) and No. 6 Hinds (28-19).
Gulf Coast moved back into the NJCAA Division II Baseball Rankings on Tuesday at No. 18. LSU-E is ranked first, with Pearl River at fourth. Meridian is 14th.
Pearl River won both games over MGCCC this season in Poplarville by 6-2 scores. The Bulldogs stranded 10 runners in each game, a tribute to a top pitching staff.
"They're really good on the mound," Batts said. "Some teams, you get the starter out and get to the bullpen, and it makes it easier. That's not the case with them. We're going to have our best at-bats."
Pearl River has an athletic team with a mix of power and speed at different spots in the lineup. The Wildcats' talent, combined with the grind of a bracket that requires a minimum of four wins and as many as six, puts a premium on pitching.
"You get into a tournament, your whole pitching staff is going to come into play," Batts said. "During the year, you've used four starters and three or four bullpen guys. If you've got 12 guys on your staff, at some point they're gonna all play a part in it if you go deep."
NJCAA Region 23 Tournament
Wednesday, May 16
Game 1: No. 3 Meridian (36-11) vs. No. 4 Itawamba (32-15), noon
Game 2: No. 2 Pearl River (37-9) vs. No. 5 Mississippi Gulf Coast (34-14), 3 p.m.
Game 3: No. 1 LSU-Eunice (50-5) vs. No. 6 Hinds (28-19), 6 p.m.
Thursday, May 17
Game 4: Game 2 loser vs. Game 3 loser, noon
Game 5: Game 2 winner vs. Game 1 loser, 3 p.m.
Game 6: Game 1 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 6 p.m.
Friday, May 18
Game 7: Game 4 winner vs. Game 6 loser, noon
Game 8: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 3 p.m.
Game 9: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 loser, 6 p.m.
Saturday, May 19
Game 10: Game 8 winner vs. Game 9 winner, 3 p.m.
Sunday, May 20
If Necessary Game
Game 11: Game 10 winner vs. Game 10 loser, 1 p.m.
Schedule may change after games 6 and 9 depending on number of one-loss teams.
Winner advances to the 2018 NJCAA Division II World Series as the South District representative.
For more information on MGCCC's 10 intercollegiate athletic teams, follow @MGCCCAthletics on Twitter and BulldogLIVE on Facebook, and go to mgcccbulldogs.com.