Indians weather their first challenge

Rick Collier is pretty sure folks in Fulton heard the roar of the crowd at Crubaugh Field on Monday when Will Irvin blasted his eventual game-winning grand slam homer against Pearl River.
“It was electric,” ICC’s baseball coach said of the freshman’s seventh-inning shot that led to the Indians’ eventual 4-1 playoff victory and kept the nation’s No. 4-ranked team’s postseason hopes alive.
ICC (40-11) opens play at 6 p.m. today against host Hinds (33-15) in the MACJC state tournament. Holmes plays Jones in the four-team, double-elimination event’s first game at 3.
The finals are scheduled for Saturday and the top three teams advance to next week’s Region 23 tournament at No. 1-rated LSU-Eunice.
Irvin not only supplied the big bat in ICC’s win, he also produced a complete game on the mound, scattering seven hits while improving to 9-1.
“He’s been there all year for us,” Collier said. “He’s got that hard-nosed attitude. That was a big performance out of a freshman.”
Earlier Monday, the Indians got another top showing from sophomore pitcher B.J. Johnson, who hurled a one-hitter against Pearl River in a 10-0 Indians win in Game 2 of the best-of-three postseason series.
“B.J. gave us a big lift,” Collier said. “He came out and threw really well. He was throwing around 88 mph.”
ICC lost Game 1 to Pearl River, 7-3, when the visiting Wildcats rallied from a 3-0 deficit for the extra-inning win.
The series was delayed by weather Saturday and Sunday, but Collier believed his team would recover.
“We needed a series like that,” he said. “Our guys have their heads on right. They’ve got that energy going. That’s what you need this time of year.”
Collier, whose ballclubs have won seven of the last eight MACJC North Division titles, says this year’s team may be his “most talented.”
The Indians haven’t played Hinds, but they’re 5-1 this season against the other two state tournament entries, Jones and Holmes.
“I believed we could come back after that loss to Pearl River,” he said. “We have the offense to score some runs. Our pitching did a great job.”
Along with Irvin and Johnson (8-2), the Indians have two other starting pitchers in Josh Chism (10-1, 4 saves) and Joseph Koon (7-2).

Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal