Hinds made strides with young ballclub|[05/16/07]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 16, 2007

RAYMOND – It could’ve been us.

That thought has crossed the mind of second-year Hinds Community College baseball coach Sam Temple this week as Central Division rival East Central is enjoying an impressive postseason.

The Warriors (27-21) won last week’s MACJC State Tournament and are the top seed in the Region 23 Tournament that began Monday in Meridian.

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&#8220East Central got hot at the time when it matters,” Temple said Monday afternoon. &#8220I think we played a part in them getting hot.

&#8220We had two chances late in the season to put them away. We go into a series at their place and if we sweep, we clinch it. And if we split, we’re still up a game on them going into our last two games at East Mississippi,” Temple said.

Instead, it was the Eagles who got swept.

&#8220We lost the first game in 10 innings and in that game, I lose my five top hitters, including the WC bunch, to injuries. I’ve never had five get hurt in one game before,” Temple said.

&#8220Josh Gordon pulled his hamstring and Jonathan Ettinger took a fastball to the knee,” Temple said of the former Viking products. &#8220And our best hitter, Corey Stevens, sprained his ankle.

&#8220We had them beat in that first game but lost it late.”

The sweep left the Warrriors ahead by a game for second place and the last playoff invitation. Hinds needed to sweep East Mississippi in Scooba or hope Holmes could win at least one from the Warriors.

Neither happened. East Central swept Holmes and the Eagles lost the second game of their doubleheader with EMCC in the bottom of the ninth inning.

&#8220Basically, it was the same problem that we had all year and that was we were light on our pitching. Our relief pitching was the thing that got us,” Temple said.

The bullpen blowup was something that first reared its ugly head in Vicksburg when the Eagles dropped an 8-4 lead in the seventh inning at the Wes Cliburn Classic opener back in March at Bazinsky Field. Bossier Parish scored four runs to tie and two in the eighth to win 10-8 in extra innings.

Still, the Eagles made strides this year, finishing with a solid 27-14 overall record and a 9-7 mark in the Central Division.

&#8220Actually, this was a very good year for us,” Temple said. &#8220We achieved some very definable goals. We were a very freshmen-oriented team and those freshmen gained a lot of valuable junior college experience.”

Gordon, Ettinger, Eric Douglas and Nick Carson, the four former Vikings, were all part of the Eagles’ freshmen surge.

Gordon, the Eagles shortstop, led the way batting .404. He paced the team with 35 RBIs and with 19 extra base hits (9 doubles, 6 triples and 4 home runs) and earned second team all-state honors.

&#8220Josh Gordon had an excellent season. To hit over .400 as a freshmen, in this league, says a lot,” Temple said.

Douglas, who platooned at third base and as the designated hitter, batted .342 with eight doubles, two triples, a home run, and 29 RBIs.

Ettinger found a home at second base and was a productive hitter at .340.

Carson had limited at bats but did make a mark as the team’s second best relief pitcher with a 1.78 earned run average. Carson appeared in eight games, striking out 14 in 19 2/3 innings.

&#8220Nick pitched well toward the end of the season and we’re looking for big things from him next year,” Temple said.

The big holes that Temple must replace are Stevens and Jess Shelby.

Stevens batted .412 and drove in 34 runs. He has signed to play for Southern Miss next year.

&#8220He’s a bat that Corky (Palmer) is going to have to find a place for,” Temple said.

Shelby led the team with a .430 average and five home runs. He was the Eagles’ placekicker the last two years in football and Temple says he will have a shot to kick and maybe play baseball at Mississippi State.