Itawamba Community College’s softball program will compete in its first National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II Softball Championship beginning Wednesday in Clinton.
The No. 10 Indians (38-14-1), who are a five seed in the tournament, punched their ticket to Clinton by defeating Copiah-Lincoln, 11-1, in the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament semifinals Friday, before falling 7-3 to No. 1 LSU-Eunice in the championship game Saturday.
“It’s a big honor to be able to go to the national tournament and to be the number five seed in our first trip,” said head coach Andy Kirk. “Our kids are excited to get there and experience it.”
In the national tournament, the Indians will play 12 seed Louisburg (N.C.) College. The Hurricanes (36-9) won the NJCAA Region 10 Tournament and are ranked No. 19 in the nation.
Both squads are some of the best in nation in numerous categories. The Hurricanes 201 extra base hits to rank third most in the NJCAA. However, the Indians boast a team ERA of 2.60 that is 20th nationally, highlighted by Olivia Burns’ (Grenada) 13th-best 1.76 ERA and 151 strikeouts.
Offensively, the Indians are fourth in the NJCAA in stolen bases (145), fifth in hit by pitches (39) and have a team batting average of .345 that is 33rd best in the nation.
Mattie Meine (Olive Branch-DeSoto Central) leads the Indians with a .415 batting average and 49 stolen bases, and Hope Harbin (Columbus) is hitt ing .402 this season. The Indians have five players with 30 plus RBI this season led by Macey Cox (Troy, Tenn.) with 42, and Summer Cryder (Tupelo) leads the team with 10 home runs.
The Hurricanes have four everyday players batting over .400, led by Haleigh Joyner at .518. She also leads the team with 63 RBI, 17 home runs and 20 doubles. Mary Anna Clement has a team best 2.11 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 109.1 innings pitched.
“We’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Kirk said. “But, we know in a tournament that anybody can beat anybody so we’re going to have to be ready to compete at a high level and try to keep the ball rolling like it has the last couple of weeks.”
Other DeSoto County players on the Itawamba Community College softball roster are: Ellie Meine (Olive Branch-DeSoto Central), Joanna Vasquez (Southaven), Hannah Swallers (Olive Branch-Marshall Academy), Rachel Sternisha (Olive Branch), along with Emma Grace Schell (Nesbit-Magnolia Heights).