Meridian, Miss. - The Northeast Mississippi Community College baseball program is on the road again as postseason play begins across the Magnolia State.
The Tigers will travel to Meridian Community College for the opening round of the 2018 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 23 playoffs.
The best-of-three series begins on Thursday, May 10 at 6 p.m. and concludes with games two and three, if necessary, at 2 p.m. on Friday, May 11 at Scaggs Field.
Every Northeast playoff game will air live on the Gold Channel of NEMCCTV. Tune in starting 10 minutes prior to first pitch for the pregame show by visiting www.nemcctv.com on any computer, tablet or smartphone.
The Northeast Broadcasting Network also includes radio affiliate WOWL Fun 91. An audio simulcast featuring Jody Presley, the Voice of the Tigers, can be heard on frequencies 91.9 FM from Burnsville, 92.9 FM from Florence, Ala., and 102.3 FM from Killen, Ala.
This is the seventh postseason appearance for the Tigers in the last 12 years. Northeast finished in eighth place in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) with a 13-15 record against league opponents.
The Eagles are ranked No. 19 in the latest NJCAA Division II poll. Meridian placed third in the MACJC standings with a 21-7 mark and compiled an overall ledger of 34-10.
This is the first-ever playoff matchup on the diamond between these two institutions after Meridian reclassified from NJCAA Division I and was admitted into the MACJC four years ago.
Northeast and the Eagles split their regular season meeting in Booneville. Meridian came from behind to win the opener 9-7, but the Tigers responded with a 13-3 victory in the nightcap that ended after six innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.
"This is a fun time of the year," said Northeast head coach Richy Harrelson. "I had an old high school coach tell me one time to just get on the dance floor. So we're going to get out there and see what we can do."
The Tigers are no stranger to being away from the friendly confines of Harold T. White Field. Northeast has played 29 contests outside of Booneville this year compared to only 14 true home games and holds a 17-12 record in such outings.
"We're looking forward to going down there," Harrelson said. "These are road warriors and they're ready to go. We match up with them really well. We just want to go out and compete and have a good time."
The Tigers (22-21) have relied on their offense throughout the current campaign. Northeast has connected on 49 total home runs, which ranks 17th nationally and is tied for third most in the state.
Mississippi State University commit Tucker Childers guides that effort with 11 home runs. The Ripley native now has 21 career dingers, which is second most on record in program history behind Ricky Lambert's 24 homers from 1999-2000.
Childers also tops the Tigers with 50 RBIs, which is eighth most in the MACJC. He became the third Northeast standout in the last two seasons to surpass 100 hits in a two-year career along with Garrison Howell and Bailey Walker.
University of North Alabama commit Colt Chrestman of Starkville holds team-highs of a .431 batting average, .458 on-base percentage, 62 hits overall, eight stolen bases and three triples.
"We set a goal early. We came here not just to have a better season, but to compete in the postseason," said Chrestman. "Early in the fall we just led by leadership. The freshmen bought in and grew up well. Now we're here."
Tyler Samaniego from Huntsville, Ala., follows closely with a .414 batting average, .456 on-base percentage, .662 slugging percentage, 55 hits, 30 RBIs and seven home runs. Those figures are all second highest on the team.
Center Hill High School alumnus Parker Haberstroh has scored 50 runs, which ranks among the top 10 in the conference. University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) transfer Jacob Wilcher of Kossuth is deadlocked with Childers for the most doubles with 11.
Jake Christa of Madison (Ala.) Academy has turned the corner as of late to guide the pitching staff. He is 5-3 overall, but is 3-0 in his last three starts with only four earned runs allowed in 19 innings of work and 13 strikeouts.
Meridian also lives off its offense and leads the country with a .378 batting average. Freshman Davis Bradshaw paces the Eagles with a .444 batting average while sophomore Trace Jordan has connected for 15 home runs.
Hunter Stanley is 8-1 on the mound for Meridian and picked up a save during its previous win over the Tigers. He has 83 strikeouts compared to only 10 walks with a 4.86 ERA.
The winner between Northeast and the Eagles will advance to the six-team double elimination NJCAA Region 23 Tournament at Louisiana State University Eunice from May 16-21.