By GENE PHELPS
FULTON – Rick Collier watched from the dugout as Ladarrius Cole grounded out for the second straight time during a recent scrimmage.
“This is the only time we get to see Ladarrius get out … in practice,” Collier said, spitting out a sunflower seed shell. “It rarely happens in a game.”
Collier’s not exaggerating. Cole, a freshman outfielder from Nettleton, is batting .477 with 10 homers, 12 doubles and 54 RBI for the No. 4-ranked Indians. He’s also stolen 14 bases in 16 attempts.
“He’s got a good eye for the baseball,” Collier said. “That’s what makes him so productive at the plate. He doesn’t get fooled by pitches.”
Collier added, “He’s a natural hitter with lightning hands. He lets his hands do the work.”
Cole, who says the baseball’s looking “fat” to him this season, attributes his success at the plate to basic hitting fundamentals.
“I try to stay back and read the pitch,” said the Indians’ leadoff man. “I read if it’s a fastball or a curveball.”
Cole is one of the reasons ICC (38-10) has a host spot for the opening round of the MACJC state playoffs. The Indians host Pearl River in Game 1 at 6 p.m. today.
The second game of the best-of-three series, and a third, if needed, will be played Saturday, starting at 2 p.m.
However, the soft-spoken player doesn’t take any credit for his club’s success.
“I want to help my team,” he said. “I try to do my part and be involved with the team and what’s best for the team.
“We’ve got the potential to have a really good season. We’ve got to continue to work at it.”
ICC’s sophomore catcher Dustin Lunn said Cole has become a leader in the field and at the plate.
“Ladarrius doesn’t say much,” he said. “Everything he needs to say, he says with his bat.”
Added Collier, “His teammates know he can hit and they all want him up in a crucial situation.”
The coach knew he was getting a solid performer when he signed Cole out of high school, but he wasn’t ready for the body of work the rookie’s produced.
“I knew he had the tools and everything,” Collier said. “I didn’t expect this out of a freshman. He just works at it. He’s got a good eye for the baseball.
“All I can say is, ‘Wow, look at the year he’s having.”’
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal