20 May


How do you get to Enid, Okla.? Practice, yes, but there is a little more to it. In East Central Community College’s case, to get to Enid and the NJCAA Division II World Series, you had to win the Region 23 Tournament against a field that included the No. 1 team in the country, the defending national champion and two other ranked teams. The Warriors pulled it off, beating top-ranked LSU-Eunice 8-2 in a winner-take-all game at Eunice on Friday. Under coach Neal Holliman, in his 17th season, the Warriors have won four state titles, including this year’s. This is their first region title and first World Series berth. Eli Collins, a Southern Miss signee, went 2-for-3 with a homer, three RBIs and three runs to power the ECCC offense on Friday. Five pitchers combined on a six-hitter with 13 strikeouts. From unranked in the preseason, the now No. 8 Warriors (37-17) will head to Enid as one of the 10 regional champions. The brackets will be announced Tuesday, and the double-elimination tournament begins May 27 at Allen Memorial Ballpark. Pearl River won the national title in 2022 and Jones College did it in 2016.

08 May

a season to celebrate

This month marks the 25th anniversary of a very special occasion in the state’s baseball history. In May of 1989, Hinds Community College became the first Mississippi school to reach the Junior College World Series. But the story runs much deeper than just that fact. The 1989 season was the first since the merger of the predominantly white Raymond campus with the predominantly black Utica campus. The athletic programs also merged and were split up between the two campuses. Raymond got baseball. Hinds’ Rick Clarke remained the head coach, with Utica’s George McQuitter becoming his assistant. The players, heated rivals in 1988, were thrown into a blender. “It was a very, very difficult transition,” Clarke told The (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger years later. But a funny thing happened amid the tumult: The team started winning. Terre Woods, a former Utica player, had a monster season with the bat. Jeff Long, a Raymond player in 1988, set a team record for runs. Doug Thomas hit 16 homers. Mark Anders won 11 games and saved nine more. The Eagles rolled to an MACJC division championship, then claimed the state title, then the region and finally the district, which sent them on to the nationals at Grand Junction, Colo. They didn’t bring home a national crown, but they did blaze a trail to the Juco World Series that many Mississippi schools would follow. And, really, the ’89 Eagles did a lot more than that, taking a tough situation and turning it into something we can applaud 25 years later.