Clarksville, Ark.-No. 14 Ozarks scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth and put the tying run on deck with no outs, but it was Mississippi College that squeezed out a 14-12 win in the series rubber match on a chilly Sunday afternoon.
The Eagles (27-8, 13-5 ASC) could still finish as high as second in the American Southwest Conference East Division race if Texas-Tyler sweeps Mississippi College (21-15, 12-3) next weekend. Otherwise, the Eagles will be on the road for their first round playoff series against an ASC West Division opponent.
Trailing 14-9 heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Eagles made things interesting as the first two batters drew walks. Cory Briggs then belted his fifth homer of the season to cut it to 14-12. With no outs, Choctaw reliever Josh Denson struck out the next batter and then forced a ground out. Bruce Cameron, however, poked a single through the left side and Scott Dietz was hit by a pitch. Denson then forced Kyle Hudson into a fielder’s choice and the Choctaws got Dietz out at second base. Ozarks left 14 runners on base in the contest.
The first inning was a disaster for the Choctaws. They committed back-to-back errors in the first and Ozarks quickly capitalized on the miscues by recording three straight singles and producing four runs. With a 4-2 lead, Ozarks again rallied in the second inning when the Eagles loaded the bases with one out. The threat ended though as Choctaw starter Jonathan Russell recorded a strike out and then induced a weak grounder to get the force out at home. The Choctaws’ offense generated four runs in their next at bat to go ahead 6-4. A Choctaw errant throw in the bottom half of the third put two runners in scoring position with two outs. The Eagles cashed in as Brad Broussard singled in both runs to even the score at 6-6. The Choctaws, however, had another big inning in the fifth to take a 10-6 lead. The Eagles cut it to 14-9 after scoring three runs in the seventh, two of which came from a Briggs single.
Mississippi worked through five Ozarks’ hurlers. DJ Braswell (3-1) suffered the loss. Bill Smith was the only pitcher who did not give up a run in the game. He went two and one-third innings and struck out three.
Russell ran his ledger to 7-1 on the season after tossing six innings.
Briggs’ monster day was capped by his ninth-inning three-run opposite field shot, but that was just one of five hits he had. He finished 5-for-6 with 6 RBI and scored three runs. Broussard collected two hits and three RBI.
The Eagles will travel to Walnut Ridge to face Williams Baptist College on April 15.