By David Wheeler/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
FULTON – The Itawamba Indians and Northeast Tigers basically treaded water on Saturday.
Northeast maintained its place atop the North Division baseball standings behind a Game 2 three-hitter by Baldwyn’s Tanner Gaines, defeating ICC 7-0.
The host Indians won the first game 4-1.
“In the second game, we got ahead early, and Tanner Gaines competed,” Northeast head coach Kent Farris said. “We’re in good shape right now – it’s all in our hands.”
Northeast (25-14, 16-6) has one division doubleheader left, hosting third place Mississippi Delta on Saturday.
The Tigers have a one-game lead on second place Northwest but also hold the tiebreaker on the Rangers.
Gaines, from Baldwyn, was a big part of the Tigers maintaining first place, keeping the Indians (20-20, 10-10) bats under control for his seven innings of work.
Itawamba loaded the bases twice in the contest, the first time in the fourth inning, with Gaines notching a strikeout to end the frame.
Then in the fifth inning, a crucial over-the-should catch by rightfielder Will Robertson (Falkner) off the bat of Cameron Coker ended that threat.
“I don’t think Tanner gave up a hit until the third or fourth inning,” Farris said. “Then after that big strikeout, we came back and hit them with some runs.”
Nursing a 1-0 lead, the Tigers began getting a little breathing room in the top of the fifth as two runs scored on three errors following one-out hits by Luke Stanley (Lafayette) and Heath Wood (Kossuth). Northeast then added a pair of runs in the sixth on a single by Stanley, and finally iced the win in the seventh on an RBI double by Robertson.
Northeast jumped to a 1-0 lead in the second frame on a Justin Neal double, followed by a Chris Aichinger single.
But that did not deter ICC starter Ben Hudspeth (Tupelo), who only allowed one hit over his last five innings for the complete-game victory.
Itawamba bats contributed, beginning in the fifth as Cody Shrewsbury (Tupelo) led off with a double, eventually scoring on a pinch-hit sacrifice fly by Austin Welch (Hamilton).
Then in the sixth, the Indians took the lead with three runs, including a two-run single by William Goss (Tupelo).
“Ben Hudspeth threw a great game, as usual,” Itawamba head coach Rick Collier said. “Then we finally pieced together some hits.”
Up next for Itawamba is a road doubleheader at Delta on Tuesday, then games against Holmes on Saturday.