By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
The Itawamba Community College Indians entered the MACJC State Baseball Tournament last week with lofty ambitions.
But after two losses Friday, the Indians were left with only one consolation – they qualified for the Region XXIII Tournament.
That begins Thursday with ICC (38-11) facing Hinds (33-16) Thursday in a 3 p.m. contest, with LSU-Eunice hosting the tournament.
“I think all teams are equal,” Itawamba head coach Rick Collier said. “It will come down to the hot team, the team that makes plays.”
All Mississippi teams that began last week’s state tournament needed one victory to qualify for the region tournament, a win ICC earned 9-4 Thursday over Gulf Coast. The Indians then lost Friday to Hinds 16-5 in a contest that featured a 14-run inning by the Eagles; then fell 8-4 in 10 innings to Gulf Coast in an elimination game.
“Against Hinds, it was good until the sixth inning where we had a couple of pitches that were borderline, and didn’t get the call,” Collier said. “After that, it was hard to get the guys up for the second game Friday, but we still had a chance to win that one.”
In the state tournament opener against Gulf Coast, Tupelo freshman Ben Hudspeth improved to 10-0 pitching, while Tupelo freshman Williams Goss and Pontotoc sophomore Jake Smithey swung hot bats. Also, Tupelo freshman Cody Shrewbury hit a key home run in the contest.
Hudspeth will get the start against Hinds on Thursday, with Dylan Earnest of Hamilton still slated to start the second game of the tournament for the Indians on Friday.
Hinds on a roll
“We’ve played Hinds five times this season, and they are a great offensive club,” said Collier, whose Indians have a 3-2 record on the season against Hinds. “They won the state title, and they’re hot right now.”
On the other side of the four-team bracket, Gulf Coast (29-19) will face the host LSU-Eunice (49-4) squad at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The losers will play at 3 p.m. Friday, followed by a winner’s bracket contest at 7 p.m. Saturday play features a 3 p.m. losers bracket game, with a 7 p.m. championship game.
If needed, the tournament would conclude with a 1 p.m. contest on Sunday.