Itawamba Community College needed two wins Monday against one of the hottest teams in the MACJC, Pearl River Community College, to advance to this week’s four-team state tourney and thanks to superb pitching and timely hitting, the fourth ranked Indians were able to accomplish that feat at Crubaugh Field.
Thanks to a one-hit shutout by ICC sophomore right-hander B.J. Johnson (8-2) of Fulton, the Indians took game one, 10-0 in five innings. Nate Coleman and Clint Alford, both of Tupelo, had key two-run hits in the bottom of the first to highlight a four-run frame. Itawamba loaded the bases off of Jared Ashford (3-3, 2.82 ERA starting the day) when Coleman delivered a two run single up the middle to score Nettleton’s Ladarrius Cole and Justin Bryant of Remlap, Ala. Two pitches later, Alford hit a two-run triple to the wall in right-center to plate Fulton’s Cade Riley and Coleman to make it 4-0. Cole hit a two run homer in the second, his 12th of the season, to make it 6-0 and that was more than enough for Johnson, who the team voted on to start the must-win game for the nationally-ranked Indians.
“When Coach (Rick) Collier had the team vote on who they wanted to start this game and they picked me, that gave me a whole lot of confidence,” said Johnson, who had lost his last two starts for Itawamba. “I knew I couldn’t let them down and thankfully that didn’t happen.”
Then Collier received another outstanding pitching performance in the third and deciding game of this series by arguably his hottest pitcher the last month of the regular season, Will Irvin of Bolivar, Tenn. Irvin (9-1) was hooked up a pitcher’s duel with PRCC starter Patrick Daugherty (1-6). In fact, Daugherty took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and led 1-0 before ICC rallied.
Coleman led off the inning with a walk and Alford then broke up the no-hitter with a base hit to left. Lige Mitchell of Pontotoc walked to load the bases for Irvin, who was also the designated hitter. Irvin then drove a high fly ball to deep left center field that had enough to get over the wall for a grand slam home run to make it, 4-1 Indians.
“When I hit, I wasn’t sure it was gone but I knew it was deep enough to tie the game and when it went over the wall, I went nuts,” said the freshman Irvin, who is a .365 hitter on the year. “Once we got the lead, I just went out there in the eighth and ninth innings and just continued to throw strikes, like I did all game long and let my defense make plays.”
Irvin retired all six batters he faced in the final two innings and pitched a complete game seven hitter to lead ICC to its 40th win of the year (40-11) and take the first round series against the Wildcats, two games to one, and advance to the MACJC State Tournament, which starts Thursday at Hinds Community College. The Indians will play the second game of the day at 6 p.m. against the host Eagles, who defeated Northwest Saturday to capture its first round series.
“Wow, what a day for the ICC family,” said Collier, whose club gave up just one run pitching in the two deciding games against Pearl River. “I have been challenging our guys the last couple of the days with all the rainouts and have been asking them, who wants to be a hero? We had a lot of heroes today including B.J. and Will. I’m going to be talking about what this team did today for many years to come when it comes to motivating my players. This was a remarkable day.”
You will be able to continue to listen to all of the ICC’s game on WAFM (95.7) and also on the College Web site, www.iccms.edu beginning Thursday night at 5:40 p.m.
ICC Media Relations