By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
FULTON – Rick Collier was pretty pleased with the defensive effort of his team Saturday.
The Itawamba Community College Indians head coach must also be pretty pleased with his team, who claimed a 12-6 victory in Game 2 of their playoff series with the East Central Warriors.
The victory gives the Indians, ranked No. 8 in the nation, a series sweep in the first round of the MACJC playoffs. The win also moves ICC into the State Tournament, which the Indians will host beginning Thursday.
“We played pretty solid defense today,” Collier said. “I’m just proud of the guys, and that they’ve accomplished two of their goals for the season.
“Now we have a chance to put a ring on our finger.”
Itawamba (37-9) had its finger on the early control of the contest.
After the visitors scored a solo run in the first, ICC responded by plating four. The key hits in the frame were an RBI double by Channing Nanney from Mooreville, and a two-run single by Zach Randolph from Amory.
The Indians then added a run in the third on an RBI triple by Jeremy Ferguson from North Pontotoc. Then in the fourth, Pontotoc’s Jake Smithey doubled with one hit, later scoring on an error.
But by the top of the seventh inning, East Central (25-23) and the humid weather had worn down ICC starter Dylan Earnest from Hamilton. The Warriors tied the contest in the frame with a two-run home run by Fred Hampton at 7-7.
“Earnest was not at his best tonight, but close,” Collier said. “But I’m proud of Myles Snyder, who had three strong innings of relief.”
Snyder, from North Pontotoc, got the last three outs of the seventh, and only allowed two base runners total in this three innings of work to earn the win.
The offense for the Indians kicked into winning form, beginning in the bottom of the seventh with a leadoff home run by Chris Hannig. The Indians then iced the win with five runs in the eighth on one hit, three walks, and three hit batters.
“Our offense had timely hits today,” Collier said. “Channing Nanney, Zach Randolph, and Chris Hannig had big at bats.
“And we were patient at the plate in the eighth inning.”
Collier indicated that Itawamba would get the winner of the Northeast-Gulf Coast series in probably the second game Thursday for the four-team tournament. That series might not conclude until Monday because of weather.