BOONEVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/NEMCC Athletics) - The Northeast Mississippi Community College baseball program wants to rise into the upper half of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges’ (MACJC) rugged ranks once again.
The Tigers will have to work their way through a 2018 schedule that features 20 total games against teams that appeared in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II poll one season ago in order to do just that.
“It’s a pretty demanding schedule,” said Northeast head coach Richy Harrelson. “We wanted to try to prepare our guys with some competition that gets us ready for (the MACJC). There’s going to be a lot of good teams this year from top to bottom.”
The Tigers open the new campaign inside the friendly confines of Harold T. White Field for a third straight year when Calhoun (Ala.) Community College pays a visit on Tuesday, February 6.
Northeast alternates home and away dates during the remainder of the first full month of the season. The Tigers will travel to East Central Community College and make the return to Calhoun in that early stretch.
Jackson State (Tenn.) Community College, Southeastern Illinois College and Northeast will participate in a round robin event over a two-day period. The trio of squads will meet in Booneville on Saturday, February 17 and again one day later at Skyhawk Field on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Martin.
The Tigers conclude their preparations for MACJC play in early March by welcoming Bevill State (Ala.) Community College, which is restoring its baseball program after a seven-year hiatus, plus a home-and-home series with Blue Mountain College’s junior varsity team.
Northeast is challenged right off the bat to begin the MACJC portion of its slate when defending NJCAA Region 23 champion Hinds Community College comes to town for a twinbill on Saturday, March 17.
The Tigers have a key eight-game road stretch that starts in late March and continues into April. The only meeting between Northeast and rival Itawamba Community College takes place during this pivotal period on Wednesday, April 4 in Fulton.
Ten of the final 14 matchups of the regular season will emanate from the City of Hospitality, including the annual sophomore recognition doubleheader on Wednesday, May 2 when the Tigers host Northwest Mississippi Community College.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun this year,” Harrelson said. “I’m super excited about these young men. They’ve got a tremendous work ethic. We’re expecting big things out of these guys. We just want the chance to go out there, compete and see what happens.”
The MACJC State Tournament has been eliminated for a second consecutive year and the team that finishes in first place during the regular season will be crowned as the state champion.
The top nine squads in the Magnolia State advance to the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament. The teams seeded two-through-nine will compete in a first round best two-out-of-three series at four different on-campus locations from May 10-12 while the MACJC titleholder receives a bye.
The four opening round winners, the state champion and Louisiana State University at Eunice will then come together for a six-team double elimination regional competition between May 17-19 with the victor advancing to Enid, Okla., and the NJCAA Division II World Series.