BY JAY TIDWELL
Special to the Journal
BOONEVILLE – Itawamba coach Rick Collier will tell you that his team prefers to stay on top, whether it's on the scoreboard or in the division race.
Now ICC is right where it wants to be.
The nation's No. 10-ranked junior college baseball squad locked up its fifth MACJC North Division title in the last six seasons by sweeping Northeast in a doubleheader Saturday in Booneville.
ICC, which improved to 31-10 overall and 11-1 in division play, scored runs in its first at bats of both games and never relinquished the lead.
The Indians held off a late rally by Northeast to take Game 1, 6-4. ICC followed with seven runs in the first two innings of Game 2 for an easy 11-2 finish.
“We won the North Division today, and that was big,” said Collier. “I knew we were going to come out with a lot of intensity.”
Northwest split its Saturday doubleheader with Mississippi Delta, leaving both Northwest and Northeast (28-16, 8-6) with six division losses apiece.
The Indians jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first inning against both Chase Porch (8-3) and Trey Griffin (5-1), with Griffin lasting only 11-3 innings in Game 2.
Left-handers Jason Howell (8-3) and Chris Hillard (8-2) teamed up for their second sweep of Northeast.
“We got ourselves in a hole early in both games and couldn't fight our way out of it,” said Northeast coach Kent Farris. “Itawamba played extremely well today. We couldn't execute the little things that they did so well.”
An RBI double by Davis Potter started ICC scoring in the opener, and an RBI triple by Lige Mitchell sealed it in the seventh.
Drew Dillard belted his fourth homer of the season to make it 6-4 in the bottom of the seventh.
In the second inning of Game 2, Josh Chism drove in two runs with a triple to the center-field wall and Cody Trotter and Wesley McCullough had back-to-back RBI singles to make it 7-0.
“That relaxes you,” Collier said. Anytime you get a lead, you can do some things, like sacrificing guys over and scoring runs and keep adding to the lead.
“You play better when you're the one that's on top.”