By Mark Beason
MERIDIAN – In eight of the nine innings, Itawamba Community College went toe-to-toe with Meridian.
But baseball is a nine-inning game, and the Eagles used one big inning to knock off ICC 5-1 and win the MACJC state championship for the second straight year. Both teams still have bigger games to play, as ICC hosts the NJCAA Region 23 tournament May 15-18.
ICC (37-13) started the day with an uphill climb, having to beat the Eagles twice. MCC went 4-0 in the state tournament, while the Indians were 2-2
The Indians got a good performance from starting pitcher Colt Chapman. The right-hander kept a strong MCC (36-16) lineup off balance in six of the seven innings he pitched. The Eagles scored four of their five runs in the third, getting their only other run in the eighth.
“Colt did his job and kept us in the game,” ICC coach Rick Collier said. “He didn’t try to do too much, and gave us a chance to win.”
MCC pitcher Lee Swindle came through with a big performance when the Eagles needed it. He went all nine innings, giving up just one run on five hits. ICC’s only run was a solo home run by sophomore first baseman Josh Graham. It was his second home run of the tournament.
“We just weren’t able to put anything together,” Collier said. “We got some guys on base at times, but we just couldn’t get that big hit we needed.”
ICC threatened in two of the first three innings. The Indians got runners on second and third with just one out in the second, but Swindle worked out of the jam getting Caleb Kidd to ground out and struck out Cody Grisham.
In the third, ICC got two more runners on, but couldn’t come up with a big two-out hit, something the Indians were able to do most of the tournament.
“If we could have got a couple there it would have helped us to relax some and put some pressure on them,” Collier said. “All we needed was a break here or there and it could have been a different ball game.”
Graham’s homer came with one-out in the eighth, and the Indians got two more runners on base in the frame. Swindle got out of the inning again, and got a four-run lead back on a Tyler Moore solo homer in the bottom of the inning.
“We always say that brothers are hard to beat, and it took all of us to get it done,” Meridian coach Chris Rose said. “Itawamba has a very good baseball team, and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
Graham and designated hitter Lee Wallace led the Indians at the plate, getting two hits each.