Retooled ICC opens season today in twinbill

Baseball StockBy David Wheeler

Special to the Journal

On Friday, Rick Collier was worried that the forecasted high temperature for today of 49 degrees might not be reached.

Such are the weather worries of a head coach of a spring sport which begins in February.

Collier will see his Itawamba CC baseball team Indians swing into action for the 2014 season today, hosting Calhoun (Ala.) in a doubleheader beginning at noon.

“We’re young, and we have a lot of question marks on this team,” Collier said. “We have to play some games to answer those questions.”

Collier certainly has questions about his team, which returns only three regular starters from the 2013 squad which turned in a 23-23 record and an 11th straight post-season appearance.

Itawamba will look to sophomores Drew Wheeler from Mooreville, Ethan Gill from Pontotoc, and Austin Welch from Hamilton for that veteran leadership.

Pitching

One of the biggest graduation hits the Indians took was on the pitching staff.

Collier plans for freshman Brady Chambley from Winona to be the Game 1 starter today, followed by freshman Rush Johnson from Hatley in Game 2. Destin Hahn from Amory, Gable Butler from Tishomingo County, Drew Carter from Tupelo Christian, Tucker Akin from Ridgeland, C. J. Hodges from Winona, and Ben Aldridge from Tupelo, and T. J. Watson of Georgia will figure in the rotation as well.

Offensively, Cameron Coker from Tennessee, Brice Williams from Ridgeland, and Tanner Poole from Amory could already be penciled in the lineup. Johnson and Oxford’s Luke Gibbs could share duties at shortstop, with Butler and Brayden Owens from Tupelo sharing an outfield position.

“They’ve got to learn the speed of the game these next few weeks,” Collier said. “Hitters will need to use all fields, and pitchers will need two pitches to have success in our league.”

Itawamba opens North Division play on March 15 at Northeast.

Softball

The major spring sports – baseball and softball – of the two junior colleges in the area all begin their respective spring campaigns within the next five days.

No. 20 Northeast begins play Monday.

In softball, Itawamba starts Monday, while Northeast plays its first game Wednesday.