Celebrations of diamond success are becoming an art form in Mississippi this spring. It’s everywhere you look.
The Ole Miss softball Lady Rebels have high-fived and danced their way to a Super Regional at UCLA. In baseball, William Carey is headed to the NAIA World Series at Lewiston, Idaho. Delta State is headed to the Division II World Series in the Dallas suburbs. Southern Miss has celebrated a Conference USA championship.
As surprising and rewarding as any of those, Hinds Community College is headed to the junior college world series at Enid, Okla.
Sam Temple’s Eagles over the weekend exuberantly celebrated their regional championship-clinching victory over powerhouse Jones Junior College with a dogpile.
As college coaching great Ron Polk and others have preached forever: There are no upsets in baseball. Perhaps not, but this one was as close as it gets.
Defending national champion Jones, playing at home in Ellisville, entered the Saturday championship game ranked No. 1 in the land and with an absurd 46-3 record. In two earlier meetings, Jones has dispatched Hinds 9-1 and 9-0.
“They exposed us,” is the way Temple, the Hinds coach, put it. “But that was early in the season and now we are playing better baseball.”
Hinds, 34-16, edged Jones 8-7 in the championship game to advance to the juco world series. No. 6 seed Hinds will play third-seeded Pitt (N.C.) Junior College Saturday night at 7:15 in the double elimination tournament.
“Jones is just a great baseball team, so talented,” Temple said. “But we’ve gotten some guys back healthy and we’ve really started hitting the ball. It’s baseball, you never know.
“I’ll tell you this Mississippi junior college league prepares you for anything. The competition is so good, so demanding. It makes you better. You either get better or you get embarrassed.”
Hinds, which reached the national championship game in 2014 before losing a heart-breaker, has become outstanding. The talent has been there. Ten Eagles have signed Division I scholarships, including hitting and pitching star Quinton Logan of Natchez, who will play baseball at Louisiana Tech.
“We just kind of put it all together near the end of the season,” Logan said. “We started hitting the ball better, pitching better. Our energy level got higher. It’s contagious.”
Temple handed Logan the ball in the championship game at Ellisville with the scored tied at 7 going into the seventh inning. Logan shut out the powerful Bobcats on one hit over the last three innings. Logan, a left-hander, hits 92 mph, which seems much faster because of the change-up he developed last fall. Logan also throws an effective hard slider.
Batting clean-up, Logan hits .333 and leads the team with 47 runs batted in. On the mound, he is 3-0 with a 1.19 earned run average. His first cousin, Nook Logan, played three years in the Major Leagues.
The Eagles hit .320 as a team, but the real strengths of the ball club are pitching and defense.
Grenada freshman Caleb Morgan, 8-1 and 2.19 ERA, is the No. 1 starter. Southern Miss signee Adam Jackson, a tall, lanky lefty from Clinton, is back healthy after missing time with a back injury and will take a 5-2 record and 3.22 earned run average into the national tournament.
“We came so close to winning it all in 2014,” said Temple, who played his college ball at Delta State. “The opportunity to go back to Enid is a blessing. We’ll try to take it one step further this time. In baseball, you never know.”