By David Wheeler/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
Both the Itawamba Indians and the Northeast Tigers baseball teams are trying to maintain their standing in North Division play.
The challenge for today is that the two will have to accomplish this feat against each other.
Northeast will pull onto the Itawamba campus for a doubleheader today, with Game 1 beginning at 3 p.m. The Tigers (24-13, 15-5) are currently in first place in the North, while the Indians (19-19, 9-9) are in fourth.
The top four teams in the North and South division qualify for the playoffs.
“We need to put up W’s and we’ve got six games left,” Itawamba head coach Rick Collier said. “There will be a lot of energy against Northeast, and there’s going to be two good games.”
Back on March 28, the two schools split a doubleheader, with Itawamba winning 3-2 in the first game, then Northeast rebounding with a 4-3 victory.
Collier expects to send sophomores Ben Hudspeth (5-3) from Tupelo to the mound in Game 1, with Dylan Earnest (5-2) from Hamilton slated to Game 2.
“There’s a lot on the line every time Northeast and Itawamba matchup,” Collier said. “There’s a lot riding on this Saturday.”
Itawamba is led in hitting by freshman Ethan Gill of Pontotoc at .348, and 25 RBIs.
Northeast head coach Kent Farris expects to counter on the mound with Kyle Stephenson (4-0) from Booneville and Tanner Gaines (4-1) from Baldwyn, both third-year sophomores.
“It’s a big game for us due to the fact we’re trying to keep playing well and host in the playoffs,” Farris said. “Regardless, it’s a big rivalry and means a lot to the players and the fans.
“We’ve been playing well of late, and would like to keep doing that.”
Sophomore Will Robertson from Falkner leads Northeast in batting at .454 with 49 RBIs.