ECCC, MCC baseball receive national rankings

Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 12:09 AM CDT
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Meridian Community College baseball coach Dillon Sudduth told his team last week they would likely be ranked soon.

“Coach Sudd came in one day and told us we were probably going to be ranked,” infielder and West Lauderdale graduate Braden Luke said. “He told us this week we had been ranked pretty high.”

In this week’s National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) rankings for Division II baseball, the Eagles didn’t just make the cut - they came in at No. 10 out of 20 schools.

”It makes you feel good about us as a team knowing that together we can be in the top 10 in the country,” Luke said. “It shows you how much hard work we put into it and how good we can be as a team.”

The Eagles are 14-6 (.700) on the season with wins over other opponents ranked nationally like Jones College (14), Copiah-Lincoln (20) and Pearl River (3).

Infielder Bo Gatlin says the team doesn’t worry too much about rankings because they know how quickly they can change. However, they do hope to move forward instead of backwards in the poll and believe they have the mindset to do so.

“We just have to attack each day. That’s something Coach Sudd has really emphasized,” Gatlin said. “As the season goes on we may get worn out but we trust the work we’ve put in, we trust our coaching staff and we trust each other.”

The latest NJCAA poll also featured East Central Community College. The Warriors are No. 19 and sit one spot about in-state opponent Copiah-Lincoln.

It was a rocky start to the season for ECCC. The Warriors lost five of their first eight game but experienced at the end of January into early February. They collected seven wins in a row that included sweeps of EMCC, Pearl River and Holmes.

Roper Ball chose to come back and play for the Warriors another year in what he calls his COVID sophomore season. The infielder said the Warriors have made that decision worth it since the team has done so well.

“It means a lot. This team works really hard every day,” Ball said. “There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t work hard.”

Ball says the team has been playing aggressively and using speed to their advantage, which is a big reason why they were able to receive a national ranking.

Infielder Amani Larry said because the Warriors beat teams already nationally ranked, he wasn’t too surprised to see them make the poll. However, he was puzzled by the team’s low ranking since they beat previously ranked teams like Pearl River, Jones and Itawamba.

“I was pretty surprised that we just got 19,” Larry said. “There’s still a slight chip on the shoulder because we know what we’re capable of, even if the rankings don’t show that.”

Larry said the key for the team is to not look back on previous losses and focus on winning the games ahead. Ball echoed his teammate, saying that to be ranked is not good enough.

“You always got to get better. Of course with 19 we’re in the Top 20, but 19 is not good enough,” Ball said. “We’ve got to keep that in mind, we’ve got to keep working and we’ve got to keep doing what we have been.”

The Warriors and Eagles already played once this season with ECCC winning 11-1 in five innings. The two teams will tango again during a doubleheader on April 14 at MCC.

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