Meridian, Miss. - Caleb Todd showed out on the biggest stage of the campaign to date for the Northeast Mississippi Community College baseball team.
Todd blasted two no-doubt home runs to bolster his squad offensively, but the Tigers could not overcome six defensive errors and fell to Meridian Community College by a 7-2 score on Thursday, May 10 at Scaggs Field.
The Eagles lead the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 23 first round playoff series 1-0. Game two is slated for 2 p.m. on Friday, May 11 with a third game to follow at approximately 5 p.m., if necessary.
Todd moved up the individual leaderboard to second on the team in both homers and RBIs with his pair of long balls. He now has eight dingers on the season and 11 during his two-year tenure in the City of Hospitality.
His first long ball of the evening came at a pivotal time in the contest. Todd cut Meridian's lead in half to 2-1 in the top of the fifth inning with a shot that easily sailed over the left-centerfield wall.
"It boosts my confidence a whole lot," Todd said. "I was just sitting fast ball. If there was a curve ball or if it was outside I just took it. You've got three strikes so I sat on the fast ball and stayed within my zone."
He kept Northeast alive in the ninth with his second home run of the matchup. It sailed well over the tall centerfield wall 385 feet from home plate with two outs to spark some late energy in the Tigers' dugout.
The Tigers actually went on to load the bases after Anthony Lipsey doubled and Parker Haberstroh plus pinch-hitter Braxton Miller walked. But Northeast could not get the timely hit and ended the game with the bags juiced.
"Our guys came out and wanted to win, but they played a little tense," Tigers head coach Richy Harrelson said. "Everything that we've done all year has prepared us for this and we were ready. We wouldn't be here if we weren't any good. We've just got to come out and play better defensively."
Northeast (22-22) now has 51 home runs on the year, which more than doubles its total of 25 from one year ago. The Tigers are one of just 17 teams in the entire country to hit 50 or more homers this season.
The Eagles posted solo runs in the second and third innings, but put the contest out of reach with a combined five runs in the sixth and seventh. Trace Jordan had three RBIs for Meridian, which was also perfect defensively.
Northeast had seven total hits with six of them going for extra bases. Tucker Childers, Carter Roach and Tyler Samaniego joined Lipsey with doubles while Todd added a sharp single to his two round trippers.
Despite the six miscues, the Tigers had several nice moments in the field with three separate double plays. Jacob Wilcher threw out a runner at third base from right field while Childers started a strike them out, throw them out twin killing in the third inning.
Cooper Cox (6-4) was the hard-luck loser for Northeast with only three earned runs allowed in seven innings of work. He scattered five strikeouts and walked just one before being relieved by Caleb Griffin, who recorded a scoreless eighth.
University of Southern Mississippi signee Hunter Stanley (9-1) was the winner for the Eagles. He gave up four hits and one run in seven innings before Logan McDowell tossed the final two frames for Meridian (35-10).
"We've gotta bounce back and keep going," said Harrelson. "If it was easy, everybody would be here this time of year. Don't try to do too much. Just let your instincts take over. We're going to hit the ball better. We're ready to go."
The winner of this series advances to the 2018 NJCAA Region 23 Tournament, which features a six-team field and a double elimination format, on the campus of Louisiana State University at Eunice.