By David Wheeler/Special to the Journal
Reality almost lived up to expectations in the 2012 baseball season for the Itawamba Community College Indians.
The Indians easily won the North Division, qualified to host the State Tournament, and played in the Region XXIII Tournament. Pretty fair country ball in these parts.
“These guys had a great year, it was nothing to hang their heads about,” Itawamba head coach Rick Collier said. “To me, they were a special group.”
That group amassed a 39-13 record, winning its opening game of the region 5-2 over state champion Hinds last week. Itawamba eventually lost to LSU-Eunice and later to Hinds in the tournament.
“It was nice to turn around after the state tournament and beat the state champion, Hinds, in the opening game of the regional,” Collier said. “But Eunice is real good.”
The tournament host Eunice squad went through the regional undefeated, defeating each Mississippi team it played by more than 10 runs. That included a 17-2 victory over ICC.
One of the high moments of the regional, and even the season, was the pitching effort of Ben Hudspeth. The Tupelo freshman earned the victory over Hinds, improving to a team-leading 11-0 on the season with a 1.42 ERA.
Another bright spot in the rotation for the Indians was Houston sophomore Landon Brister (6-1). And at the plate, sophomores Jake Smithey from Pontotoc (.393 batting average, 5 home runs), Zach Randolph from Amory (.370), and Drew Alford from Tupelo (39 RBIs), along with freshman Cody Shrewsbury from Tupelo (.381, 7 home runs, 37 RBIs) where some of the top offensive performers.
Collier points to Randolph with his catching and Smithey with the bat as key graduation loses moving towards next season, but certainly feels Shrewsbury and Hudspeth returning will be key.
Collier also likes the return of Williams Goss from Tupelo, Channing Nanney from Mooreville, Tyler Tipton from Ky., Dylan Earnest from Hamilton, and Collin Minga from Mantachie.
“I’m looking forward to working with pitchers Tyler Nelms from Kossuth and Ben Aldridge from Tupelo,” said Collier of his current recruiting class. “And we have a lot of big hitters from the area that could have an impact pretty quickly.”
Within the six-week guidelines in Mississippi, Itawamba will begin its fall baseball in September.