EUNICE, La. – ICC’s lengthy, challenging postseason finally took its toll Friday in the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament’s elimination game.
The Indians, ranked No. 4 in the nation, dropped a disappointing 10-0 decision in six innings to Holmes, a team it had beaten six times this season.
The shocking loss ended ICC’s season.
The Indians opened the tournament Thursday with an equally stunning 9-8 loss to Hinds, which dropped them into the loser’s bracket.
“It’s the worst ball we’ve played all year,” ICC coach Rick Collier said. “It’s hard to keep it going that many weeks.”
ICC opened the postseason by beating Pearl River in a weather-delayed best-of-three series. The Indians needed a doubleheader sweep of the Wildcats to advance after dropping the opener.
Last week, ICC banged out 52 hits and scored 47 runs to win the MACJC State Tournament in three games. Two of those wins – 16-4 and 17-6 – were against Holmes.
A confident group of Indians made the eight-hour bus ride to Louisiana with hopes of challenging host LSU-Eunice for a region title and a berth in the NJCAA Division II World Series.
“I thought we played well against Hinds on Thursday,” Collier said. “It could have gone either way.”
However, the coach said the disappointing one-run loss to the Eagles took some steam out of his players.
“I could tell it did,” he said. “The had expectations of playing LSU-Eunice the second day, so the loss (to Hinds) hurt us.”
For five innings in Friday’s game, the Indians and Holmes battled to a 0-0 tie. The Bulldogs then belted nine of their 11 hits in the sixth inning to score all 10 of their runs.
“Everything seemed to go their way in that inning,” ICC catcher Dustin Lunn said. “Every ball they hit seemed to find a hole. That’s baseball, man.”
Collier’s sophomore class, including Lunn, exits Fulton with an impressive 80-28 record and a state championship trophy.
“This group means a lot to me, to us,” an emotional Collier said following a meeting in right field with his disappointed crew. “You work hard together, sweat together … see them happy and see them cry. They’re like family.”
And Friday, Collier’s family was hurting.
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal