BILOXI — No. 7 Mississippi Gulf Coast saved the comeback until late, but sprinted past Northeast 3-1 in the opening game of the MACJC first-round playoff series.
The Lady Bulldogs (36-10) scored three times in the sixth, and Nora Keehn closed out her six-hitter for the crucial opening win.
"Playoffs are tough because this conference is so tough," Gulf Coast coach Kenneth Long said. "We kinda started out on our heels a little bit. They scored, they were prepared and ready to play, but good teams always come back. I'm proud of our team for doing that."
The teams play Game 2 Saturday at 2 p.m. A third game at Biloxi High School, if necessary, would follow.
The Tigers (29-20) pushed across a run in the first inning, but the Lady Bulldogs bats were quiet until the sixth. Molly Murphy (So, Southaven/Lewisburg) had the only two hits, both singles up the middle, until the comeback.
Long pointed to a Gulf Coast defensive play in the top of the frame that helped turn the momentum. Izzy Werdann (So, Pensacola, Fla./Tate) pounced on a ball just in front of the plate and narrowly threw out the Northeast runner.
"I think we just had to have a little fun," he said. "Izzy made a good play right before that to get us going, and Cam got a great hit for us."
After an infield fly, Paige Dill (Fr, Olive Branch/Lewisburg) lashed the first pitch she saw, a ball right down the middle of the plate, into left centerfield for a double to score the tying run.
"I just knew we were down by one run," she said. "I knew we could get it. I knew with runners at first and second, I needed to score them. I knew in that exact position I could do it."
Werdann followed with a towering fly ball into the left-field corner. A gusting wind pushed it into fair territory just short of the fence.
"I was thinking she's going to score," she said. "I got the ball where I needed it to be. Whether she was going to catch it whether she let it drop, the run was going to score."
The left fielder couldn't make the play, and Werdann wound up at second with Gulf Coast up 2-1. Kristen Sexton's sacrifice fly made it 3-1, and Keehn (So, Thibodaux, La./Vandebilt Catholic) struck out her third and fourth batters in the seventh and stranded a base hit with a pop fly to right. Keehn didn't walk a batter.
The winner of the series advances to next week's state tournament, which will feature the winners of the other three first-round series. Jones County, East Central and Itawamba won their opening games.
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