By David Wheeler/Special to the Journal
It is pretty simple for the Itawamba Community College baseball Indians – win two and advance to the MACJC state tournament.
And, winning two will earn the Indians a host berth for the remainder of the state tournament May 10-12.
“You have to take each game one at a time when the playoffs get here,” ICC coach Rick Collier said. “I just hope the team comes out, and knows what’s at stake, and plays hard.”
Four teams from the two divisions in the state qualified for the tournament, with play opening Friday. Itawamba is the No. 1 seed from the North, and will host East Central, the No. 4 seed from the South.
Game 1 of the best-of-three series is at 6 p.m. Friday in Fulton, with Game 2 Saturday at 2 p.m. Game 3, if needed, would follow immediately after.
Collier indicates that pitching will be monitored closely, as all post-season junior college contests are nine innings, as compared to the seven inning games played during the division schedule.
“It definitely changes your pitching,” Collier said. “Some starters will now play a relief role. Six extra outs a game is a lot.”
Collier is expected to send Tupelo freshman Ben Hudspeth (8-0) to the mound for the Indians in the opener. The coach says that will help give the team catching options for Saturday if there is a third game, with Hudspeth the No. 2 catcher on the ICC depth chart.
Dylan Earnest (6-1) of Hamilton is slated for Game 2 Saturday.
“We’ve had great pitching throughout the season, and above average hitting,” Collier said. “But our defense has struggled.
“If we just put it together defensively, we’ll be all right.”
After missing the postseason last year, the Northeast Tigers have extended their season as the No. 3 seed from the North.
“We’re excited to be in the playoffs,” Northeast coach Kent Farris said. “I felt like late in the season, we were getting healthy.
“We’ve been playing well when we needed.”
But for the Tigers, the price of postseason admission comes with a long bus trip. Northeast will travel almost the entire length of the state for Saturday’s Game 1 at Gulf Coast, with the potential for a twinbill on Sunday.
Farris could start sophomore Daymon Eriksen (5-2) on Saturday. Kyle Stephenson of Booneville is one of the pitchers Farris will consider for Sunday.