Junior college baseball shuffles schedule plan for 2015

baseball_icon_greenBy David Wheeler

Special to the Journal

Better check the various junior college baseball schedules for the 2015 season – it will be very different.

With the announcement last week that Meridian was leaving its independent status and rejoining the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges, there are now an odd number of schools to work out a fair league schedule. For the spring of 2015, the 15 teams will face each other once – in a doubleheader – to determine which schools make the postseason.

“I’m excited about it, and I think it’s going to help our league,” said Northeast Tigers coach Kent Farris, whose squad hosted three other teams from the South Division for the finals of the Mississippi postseason back in the spring. “I think the regular-season champion will be more of a true champion.”

Through 2014, there were seven teams in the South Division, and also seven teams in the North Division, including Northeast and Itawamba. Four teams from each division made the playoffs.

Going forward, with Meridian in the South, the top two teams from each division make the playoffs, with the next four teams with the best records filling out the remaining eight slots.

“To me, it’s true baseball, and the regular-season championship will have a lot more prestige,” Farris said. “And I think it will give the kids a lot more exposure because a lot of recruiting is done by talking to other coaches.”

A casualty of the new format will be home-and-home series against traditional rivals, specifically in this corner of the state, Northeast versus Itawamba – at least for the 2015 season.

With the new division schedules already on paper, Northeast and Itawamba would only play once in 2015. Plans are in the works for 2016 for Itawamba and Northeast to continue playing twice a season – once as a division doubleheader, and once as a non-division doubleheader.

“You’ll get a good look at who the best teams in the state are,” Itawamba coach Rick Collier said. “I kind of like it, but you had better bring your ‘A’ game every time you play.”