Possibly the greatest Sophomore Day in Northwest baseball history, Jay King hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Rangers to a 5-4 win in the opener while Kramer Hollenbach’s walk-off double in the nightcap capped an improbable 13-12 victory to sweep the doubleheader over East Mississippi.
Winners of six straight, Northwest improved to 26-13 overall and closed north division play at 17-7. The Rangers have clinched second and homefield advantage May 3-4 in the first round of the best-of-3 state playoff series, but still have an outside shot at first if Delta can sweep Northeast this weekend.
Northwest out-hit EMCC 13-6 in the opener, but the Lions used timely hits and a solo home run from Philip Tice in the top of the 7th to force extra innings.
After holding EMCC scoreless in the 8th and 9th, King came up to the plate with one out and smashed a curving home run ball over the foul pole in left for the walk-off win.
Domenick Carlini earned a no-decision in 8.0 innings of work, scattering six hits, four runs, six strikeouts and two walks. Tanner Densford improved to 4-0 by tossing a scoreless 9th.
Cody Carson, James Lear, J. King, Taylor King and Hollenbach all had multiple hits in the win.
But the fireworks were just getting started, as the nightcap would provide arguably one of the greatest comebacks in junior college baseball history.
EMCC came out with a purpose in Game 2 and immediately jumped out to a big lead thanks to Tyler Odum’s grand slam in the first. The Lions added three in the second and a single run in the third to take a commanding 8-0 cushion.
Dylan Castoria’s leadoff home run in the bottom of the third made it 8-1 Lions.
Scoreless the ensuing two innings, EMCC put the icing on the cake in the sixth by adding four more runs thanks to Odum’s two-run double and Ledarious Clark’s two-run homer to left-center.
Trailing 12-1 in the bottom of the 6th and one down, a monster rally ensued that nobody saw coming.
Brennan Pugh doubled down the leftfield line to score a pair, Josh Brown doubled down the line to score two more and Castoria followed with a stand-up double to make it 12-6 Lions. Jay King’s sac fly to left scored one, T. King’s double scored another and Hollenbach’s single through the left side made it 12-9 after six complete.
Will Faulkner (1-0), who had only thrown 2/3 inning all year, got the final out of the 6th in relief of Mitchell Flowers and tossed a scoreless 7th to give Northwest a fighting chance in the bottom of the inning.
Tucker Smith and Pugh reached on back-to-back walks to start the inning and Castoria added a one-out single to load the bases. Jay King then reached off an E6 to score both runners and make it 12-11 with runners on the corners.
With two outs and runners at second and third, T. King was intentionally walked to load the bases. Hollenbach made it hurt a batter later with an 0-1 count, driving a breaking pitch the opposite way down the rightfield line and scoring J. King and Castoria for the unbelievable walk-off win.
Each team finished with 13 hits in the thrilling finale, with Castoria, T. King and Hollenbach going a combined 9-for-14 with six RBIs. Odum finished with a game-high six RBIs for EMCC in the loss.
Northwest will close out the regular season on Saturday, April 27 at 17th-ranked Jones County. The Rangers and Bobcats could possibly matchup in the first round of the state playoffs May 3-4 in Senatobia.