Hinds wins Region 23 championship

Published 12:21 am Sunday, May 21, 2017

ELLISVILLE — Enid, Oklahoma, might not be most people’s idea of a vacation destination, but for the Hinds Community College baseball team it’s the only place to be.

Former St. Aloysius star Will Pierce drove in the go-ahead run with a fielder’s choice in the eighth inning, and Hinds beat Jones County Junior College 8-7 Saturday night to win the NJCAA Region 23 championship.

Hinds (34-16) advanced to the NJCAA Division II World Series for the second time in four seasons, and sixth time in school history, by knocking off Jones (46-4), the No. 1 team in the country and the defending national champion.

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Jones had been upset by Pearl River Community College in its tournament opener and would have had to beat Hinds twice to advance to the World Series.

Jones had outscored Hinds 18-2 in sweeping a doubleheader in their only previous meeting this season, in Raymond back in March.

Hinds was the national runner-up in 2014, lost in the Region 23 tournament championship game in 2015, and in the MACJC state playoffs in 2016.

The World Series will begin May 27 in Enid, Oklahoma, with 10 regional champions from around the country participating. The brackets have not yet been set.

Hinds, perhaps a bit surprisingly, is among the final 10.

The Eagles lost six of their last nine regular-season games to limp into the postseason, and then have not lost since. They ripped off four straight wins in the Region 23 tournament by outscoring their opponents 38-15.
The back-and-forth finale with Jones was the only tough game Hinds had the entire way.

Jones scored twice in the first inning and twice in the second to take a 4-1 lead, but Hinds struck back for four runs in the third to go up 5-4.

Staton Todd had an RBI single, Kyle Schimpf drove in two more with another single, and Pierce drew a bases-loaded walk in the inning.

Jones retook the lead by scoring two runs on a passed ball in the fifth, and Hinds tied it at 6 on a home run by Acy Owen in the sixth.

Jackson Mitchell delievered an RBI double later in the sixth to put Hinds in front, but the Bobcats tied it again at 7 on an RBI single by Shelton Wallace.

Finally, in the eighth, Hinds had the last lead change. With the bases loaded and one out, Pierce hit a chopper to third base. Jones’ Tanner Huddleston tagged the bag for the second out as Pierce reached first and Braedon Barrett scored the go-ahead run for an 8-7 lead.

Jones left two runners on in the eighth inning — Pierce caught a fly ball on the warning track in right field for the final out — and Hinds reliever Quinton Logan retired the side in order in the ninth to send the Eagles to the World Series.

Logan pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings to earn the win for Hinds. He allowed two hits and one walk, and struck out three.

Barrett went 2-for-5 with a a solo home run and two runs scored, while Owen was 3-for-4 with a home run and three runs scored.

Pierce was 0-for-3, but walked twice and had two RBIs.

Caleb Ledet had two hits, including a double, and scored twice for Jones. Huddleston also had two hits and scored two runs.