BOONEVILLE – Itawamba Community College’s baseball team is treading in unfamiliar waters.
Entering the second half of play in the MACJC North Division last Saturday, ICC found itself in fourth place, instead of the top spot. However, don’t count the Indians out of contention in their bid for an eighth consecutive division title.
ICC moved into third place in the North with a recent sweep of East Mississippi. The wins left the Indians two games behind division-leading Northwest.
With help, the Indians (20-12, 9-5) could stand tied for first place after today’s road doubleheader against Northeast (15-15, 5-7) in Booneville. First pitch between the two rivals is set for 1 p.m. at Harold T. White Field.
“We’ve got a young group this time,” ICC head coach Rick Collier said, referring to the nineteen freshmen on his 2011 roster, “The torch has been passed. I’ve been preaching to them what it means to the school.
“We’ve gotten some help, but we have to take care of our business.”
That help came in the form of Coahoma and Mississippi Delta – who currently sit at the bottom of the division – splitting against division leaders Northwest and Holmes last Saturday.
“We knew something could happen,” Collier said. “The season is a marathon not a sprint, we’ve just got to keep at it.”
Though the Indians have faced injuries this season, including losing projected ace pitcher Dylan Earnest, several players have risen to the occasion.
On the mound, two former Tupelo High players have paced the Indians. Ole Miss signee John Gatlin, the Indians’ everyday shortstop, has taken on an increased role and pitched his first career complete game last week at Holmes.
Nathan Flanagan has been solid, including pitching 21 straight scoreless innings at one point. Collier also pointed towards freshmen Taylor Dickerson and Landon Brister, who have logged innings and collected key wins.
Offensively, freshman Dillon Mitchell has caught fire. The Itawamba AHS product has gone 14 for his last 21 at the plate, including collecting a two-home run performance at Holmes.
Collier knows with 10 division games remaining, wins are now at a premium.
“Our good pitching has to continue to step up,” he said. “There aren’t as many tomorrows left.”
Blake Long/Special to the Journal