Under the direction of third-year coach Chris Rose, the East Mississippi Community College baseball team will open its season at noon today against Bishop State C.C. in a doubleheader at Oak Grove High School’s Harry Breland Field in Hattiesburg.
EMCC’s season-opening games, along with Tuesday’s doubleheader against Meridian C.C., were slated to be played in Scooba, but wet conditions the past month have delayed the completion of the outfield fence reconfiguration project at EMCC’s Gerald Poole Field. Following next weekend’s road games at Wallace C.C. Selma and Bishop State C.C. in Mobile, Ala., EMCC is scheduled to open its home baseball slate at 1 p.m. Feb. 13 in a doubleheader against Jones County Junior College. The three-date homestand will also feature MACJC South Division members Copiah-Lincoln C.C. and Pearl River C.C. on Feb. 19 and Feb. 23, respectively.
Today’s doubleheader will be a homecoming of sorts for three freshmen. Infielders Drew Standland and Tyler Odom and left-handed pitcher Hunter Floyd were senior members of Oak Grove’s 34-3 team that claimed the Class 6A state baseball championship.
EMCC returns 13 players from last year’s 19-24 squad, including a sophomore-laden pitching staff headed by right-hander Smokey Ethridge. The former West Lauderdale High School product topped last year’s EMCC staff with a 6-2 record and 38 strikeouts in 13 appearances. Also returning with at least 20 innings last year are sophomore right-handers Dillon Hawkins (New Hope), Corbin Johnson (South Choctaw Academy), and Tyler Jones (Victory Christian Academy).
Back to also aid this year’s rotation are out-of-state standouts KC Abney (Memphis, Tenn.) and Trent Waddell (Tuscaloosa, Ala.), who both received medical redshirt seasons a year ago as rookies at EMCC. Out of Northridge High, the left-handed Waddell is expected to serve as the Lions’ everyday first baseman when he’s not on the mound.
The Lions are also counting on a pair of transfers to make a difference on the diamond in 2013. Dual-position standout Chase Reeves is on board after spending last season as a redshirt at the University of Mississippi. The talented southpaw was a three-time all-state selection at Hamilton High before signing with Ole Miss. A two-time Louisville Slugger All-America recipient and chosen the state’s 2011 Class 2A Player of the Year by the Mississippi Association of Coaches, Reeves batted .426 for his high school career with 34 home runs and 180 RBIs. He also posted a 39-9 career pitching mark at Hamilton with a 1.14 ERA.
Fellow transfer Chase Cameron, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound right-hander, pitched last season at the University of Montevallo in Alabama following a notable prep career at Demopolis High.
Leading returning hitters for EMCC include dual-position threat Austin Braddock, of Heritage Academy, catcher Josh Tentoni, of Columbus High, and former Meridian High School product Jason Yarbor, now in his second season as an EMCC outfielder after helping lead head football coach Buddy Stephens’ Lions to a composite gridiron record of 20-2 as a two-year starter at cornerback.
Also expected to make an immediate impact are freshman outfielders LeDarious Clark and Colton Caver. After making his EMCC playing debut as a reserve running back and kick returner this past fall on the Scooba campus, Clark will get an opportunity to demonstrate his abilities on the diamond that made him a three-time first-team Class 3A All-State performer at Southeast Lauderdale High. Caver originally signed with JCJC after a standout career at Gulfport High.