PERKINSTON — Mississippi Gulf Coast baseball coach Rodney Batts put together a challenging non-conference schedule, and the Bulldogs got an impressive split on Saturday's opening day.
Gulf Coast defeated Jefferson College, the fifth-ranked team in the NJCAA Division I preseason rankings, 9-8 in the opener. The Bulldogs, who are No. 14 in the Division II rankings, lost the second game 8-2.
"First days are always interesting," Batts said. "You hope you see competitiveness in your guys, and we did. I saw that. They did that for two games. I'm disappointed in the split after winning the first game, but they're a really good team. We're still trying to figure some things out about our team. We'll take a lot from this."
Dawson Hall (Fr., East Central/Hurley) pitched superbly in the first game, allowing just two earned runs in six innings. He struck out six and walked one.
"I thought Hall threw really, really well," Batts said. "I thought he had some jitters his first collegiate game, but he's one who wants to be out there. He doesn't get rattled by anything, and his composure was really good."
While Hall was setting down the next nine in a row, the Bulldogs got three more in the third. Inlow got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, and Fisher Ray (So., George County/Bruce) got a two-run double to make it 6-1.
Jefferson (1-1) got to within 6-5 in the seventh when Justin Lockey (Fr., Long Beach/Long Beach) made his debut on the mound. He walked the first batter to load the bases with nobody out, but promptly struck out the next three hitters.
"Lockey came in in a really tough situation," Batts said. "He gets out of it with no runs. He pitched really well and gave us a chance."
Leading 7-5, the Vikings were threatening again in the eighth after an error, a single and a passed ball put runners at second and third with nobody out. Lockey got a fly ball to left, and Tanner Estill (So., Petal/Petal) gunned out the tagging runner at home to put the brakes on the rally.
"That was the game-saver there," Batts said. "No outs, two men on. He makes the catch and throws the guy out at the plate. That was a game-changer."
Nick Sims (Fr., New Hope/New Hope) and Ray delivered two-out RBI singles in the bottom of the inning, providing vital insurance. Jefferson got a couple runs in the ninth, but Nicholas Hertz (So., St. Stanislaus/Long Beach) got the only batter he faced to strike out for the save.
Gulf Coast had opportunities to put up more runs in the second game, but left two in scoring position in the first and had the bases loaded with nobody outs in the third before failing to score. The Bulldogs also left the bases loaded in the fourth.
MGCCC entertains Baton Rouge on Tuesday at Ken "Curly" Farris Field. First pitch in the doubleheader is set for 3 p.m. The games will be streamed at https://livestream.com/MGCCCBulldogs.
For more information on MGCCC's 10 intercollegiate athletic teams, follow @MGCCCBulldogs on Twitter and MGCCCBulldogs on Facebook, and go to mgcccbulldogs.com.