EUNICE, La. – Eric Wilkes stood stunned outside LSU-Eunice stadium here Friday afternoon … and he was a member of the winning team.
“I don’t know what happened to them today,” said Holmes’ sophomore outfielder, shaking his head.
The “them” Wilkes was referring to was No. 4-ranked Itawamba, a shocking 10-0, run-rule loser to the Bulldogs in six innings at the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament.
ICC, which saw its season end at 43-13, had beaten Holmes six times this season, including twice in last week’s MACJC State Tournament. The state champion Indians were forced into the elimination game after losing 9-8 to Hinds in Thursday’s first round.
“It’s hard to beat a team seven times … eventually they’re going to get you,” a somber ICC coach Rick Collier said after meeting with his ballclub. “Baseball’s a crazy game.”
Holmes’ Wilkes, who went 3-for-4, drove in the game-winning runs with a single to the short gap in left center field to cap a 10-run bottom of the sixth inning.
“Itawamba 10-run ruled us in the state championship game; they’re an amazing team,” he said. “Like I said, I don’t know what happened to them.”
The Bulldogs’ hot bats happened to them.
Holmes reached ICC’s pitchers – starter Justin Bryant and reliever Josh Chism – for nine well-placed hits in the inning. A two-run double by Jordan Brewer chased Bryant, an Auburn signee, with one out. Chism, who usually starts, was touched for the final six hits.
“Hitting’s contagious,” Wilkes said. “We got that vibe going. That’s with any team. We started hitting and we couldn’t stop.”
ICC catcher Dustin Lunn had the best view of the offensive damage Holmes produced.
“Every ball they hit seemed to find a hole,” he said. “The breaks … we couldn’t catch them.”
An error by third baseman Jake Sloan – Ben Hodges belted a grounder between his legs – got the inning off on a sour note for ICC. Eight of the Bulldogs’ 10 runs were registered as unearned.
“That error opened the floodgates,” Collier said. “But, I’m not blaming anybody. We had opportunities to score runs today and didn’t.”
ICC left six runners on base – five in scoring position – in six innings.
Bryant (3-2) suffered the pitching loss while Holmes starter Brandon McHenry (7-3) went the distance for the win.
Holmes (31-24) advanced to Friday’s late game where it will play host LSU-Eunice, the nation’s No. 1-ranked team and defending national champion or Hinds. The region winner advances to the NJCAA Division II World Series May 23-30 in Enid, Okla.
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal