Special to the Journal
FULTON – Beating the No. 1 team in the nation is usually a good boast for the mental state of any baseball team.
Now the Itawamba Indians need a North Division win.
The Indians will get that opportunity today, hosting area rival the Northeast Tigers in a North doubleheader, with the first game set for 4 p.m.
“This is a crucial doubleheader,” said Itawamba head coach Rick Collier, whose Indians are coming off a split with No. 1 Jones County on Saturday, including a 4-1 victory in Game 2 of the matchup. “If we can take care of business, we’ll really tie a knot in things in the division.
“It just makes these games more exciting.”
Itawamba stands at 16-14 overall, but 5-7 in North play. That puts the Indians tied for fifth with Holmes, and on the outside looking in as far as the state playoffs are concerned.
Clutch hits needed
“Our pitching has been up and down – we just don’t have the numbers on the staff this season,” Collier said. “Offensively, we’ve hit the ball well, but it’s been a different story with runners in scoring position.
“We need to get clutch hits.”
Freshman Hayden Williams of Amory is leading ICC at .400, with sophomore Ethan Gill from Pontotoc at .392 and freshman Andy Bowman from Arlington, Tenn., at .367. And Collier likes how Amory’s Tanner Poole, a freshman, has been hitting of late.
On the mound for the Indians, Brady Chamblee from Winona, freshman T. J. Watson from Georgia, freshman Tucker Akin from Ridgeland, and sophomore Nick Brooks from Starkville have been performing well. Tupelo sophomore Ben Aldridge has been effective out of the bullpen.
“I think the Jones win boosted our morale,” Collier said. “We could have won the first game, leaving runners at second and third in our last at bat.
“But the kids saw that we can hang with anyone.”
Northeast comes into the matchup at 16-14 overall, and 9-5 in the division, which puts the Tigers in third place. East Mississippi leads the North at 9-3, with Northwest at 8-6.
Northwest took two from Northeast on Saturday.