May 13, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Ladarrius Cole arrived at Itawamba Community College just wanting to contribute.
The 5-foot-9, 180-pound outfielder from Nettleton High School has done much more than that, and the Indians are reaping the benefits.
Cole, who leads the team with a .456 batting average, was one of a handful of players chosen to the All-Region 23 squad on Wednesday.
Cole, Pontotoc''s Dustin Lunn (catcher), Auburn signee Justin Bryant (middle infielder), of Remlap, Ala,. and pitcher/second baseman Josh Chism were selected to the first team all-state squad.
Tupelo natives Joseph Koon (pitcher) and Nate Coleman (outfielder) made the second team all-state squad.
All of the selections have played key roles in helping No. 4 ICC (43-11) advance to the Region 23 tournament. The Indians will play Hinds C.C. at 3 p.m. Thursday at No. 1 LSU-Eunice. The game can be heard on WAFM (95.7) beginning at 2:40 p.m. Thursday.
ICC coach Rick Collier, who was chosen Tuesday the MACJC Coach of the Year, said Cole has exceeded expectations.
"He is just the type of kid who finds a way on base," Collier said. "He is very disciplined at the plate and will take base on balls or getting hit by pitch. If you throw it across the plate he will knock the cover off the baseball."
In addition to leading the team in batting average, Cole has 12 home runs and 63 RBIs. His presence at the top of the lineup has been an integral ingredient in the Indians'' postseason run.
"I try to do what is best for the team," Cole said. "If I can get up there and hit and get the whole thing started, that''s best for us. I just try to do my part."
Cole hit in the leadoff spot in high school, but he has hit in the No. 2 and as far down in the order as No. 8. He said it wasn''t until the middle of the season that he started hitting leadoff, and he has been there ever since.
His ability to be a catalyst is one reason why ICC is still playing.
On Saturday, ICC captured its first state baseball title since 2003. The Indians will try to build on that accomplishment later this week with a potent lineup that uses Cole as its spark.
Collier said Cole is versatile enough to play the role of a traditional leadoff hitter who works the count and gets on base to annoy pitchers. He also has the power to hit the ball out of the park or to drive it into the alleys.
Cole said about 15 pounds he has added since his senior season in high school has helped him gain more confidence at the plate. He said he hit seven home runs as a senior at Nettleton High and credits hard work in the weight room for helping him drive the ball with more authority.
Collier also said Cole has a good eye for the strike zone and can read pitches well coming in, which help him terrorize pitchers.
"He had some of the tools coming in. We just fine-tuned them and he has repped and repped and repped," Collier said. "He works real hard and continue to work hard every day to get better."
Cole said his teammates have given him the support and the confidence that have made his job as leadoff hitter easier. He said he didn''t imagine he would contribute as much as he has this season, but he isn''t complaining because the Indians are still winning.
"My high school coaches taught me a lot, and I give them thanks for helping me," Cole said. "(Now) I feel I have a a lot more confidence, and without confidence you''re nothing. My teammates have faith in me to get the job done. I have great teammates who know I will do whatever for the team."
Cole said he hopes to continue to mature into " a complete ballplayer." Some would argue he already has achieved that goal.
But Cole isn''t satisfied and he will continue to do what he can and play any role to help extend the Indians'' season.
"I know I had it in me," Cole said. "I was just waiting for the right moment to show it out."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.