PERKINSTON — No. 7 Mississippi Gulf Coast heads into a demanding MACJC Softball Tournament having split each regular-season doubleheader against the opponents.
The Lady Bulldogs (37-10, 24-4 MACJC) finished second in the state and will get sixth-ranked Itawamba (38-10, 23-5) in the tourney opener. First pitch in Ellisville is slated for 4 p.m. The game will streamed at http://letsgoicctv.com/red.
"It's going to be a tough tournament," Gulf Coast coach Kenneth Long said. "The conference has been tough, but I'm really proud of our team. We had some tough games on the road. We played well and won the games we needed to win. I'm really proud of this team."
Top-ranked Jones County (44-2) faces No. 9 East Central (42-6) in the second game. Daily admission is $5. MACJC passes will be accepted.
MGCCC and ICC met in the first MACJC matchup of the season. The Lady Indians won the opener 5-1, and Gulf Coast jumped out to an early lead and held on in Game 2 for a 7-5 victory.
Sophomore Carleigh Mills started the first game in the circle and relieved in the second, proving to be a tough matchup.
"She basically pitched both games against us," Long said. "She's one of the best pitchers in the state. We'll have to do a good job at the plate to beat them."
Gulf Coast has won its last eight games, outscoring the opposition 59-8. The Lady Bulldogs have batted .370, led by Molly Murphy (So, Southaven/Lewisburg) who has batted .538 in that span. She's riding a 12-game hit streak.
Nora Keehn (So, Thibodaux, La./Vandebilt Catholic) and Aidan Nichols (Fr, Brandon/Brandon) have a combined 1.04 ERA down the stretch. Keehn has allowed only two runs, and Nichols has struck out 57 batters in 28 innings.
"Some of our players have matured a little bit and are playing great roles for us," Long said. "I definitely think we're a much better team (than the first meeting). They're definitely going to be a tough team."
The top three teams advance to the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament, which will be hosted by the MACJC Tournament champion May 11-13. No. 4 LSU-Eunice will join those teams.
Two teams advance from the region tournament to play at the NJCAA Division II Tournament in Clinton on May 17-20.
Game 1: No. 2 Gulf Coast vs. No. 3 Itawamba, 4 p.m.
Game 2: No. 1 Jones County vs. No. 4 East Central, 6 p.m.
Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 4: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 3 p.m.
Game 5: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner, 5 p.m.
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 7: If necessary, 30 minutes later
For more information on MGCCC's 10 intercollegiate athletic teams, follow @MGCCCAthletics on Twitter and BulldogLIVE on Facebook, and go to mgcccbulldogs.com.