Co-Lin baseball team raises bar to higher level

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 24, 2001

Raise the bar of excellence to a higher level and guess whathappens.

Folks expect you to surpass that plateau every year and keep onimproving. Golly, gee.

Such is the dilemma facing baseball coach Keith Case and hisCopiah-Lincoln Community College Wolves. Fresh from their greatestcampaign, which included their first appearance in the NJCAADivision II World Series, the Wolves weren’t expected to do much in2001.

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Aw, shucks. They were minus eight position starters and severalpitchers from a 47-17 team which finished fourth in the WorldSeries.

Case’s crew surprised a lot of fans and opponents this season.They won the Region 23 Tournament for a second straight year andcame within one victory of returning to the World Series inMillington, Tenn., finishing runners-up in the CentralDistrict/Super Regional.

Case sighed deeply and recalled some misty-eyed moments when hissophomores turned in their uniforms after the Central DistrictTournament last Sunday in St. Louis. “I told our sophomores whatthey had accomplished in two years was great.

“Their success raises the bar higher for us,” he continued. “Tenyears ago if we would have had just a winning season, it would havebeen considered a great accomplishment. Now, people expect so muchmore from this program.”

Case and assistant/pitching coach Pete Young have the Wolvesaiming for the moon every year. Certainly, it presents a problemregarding recruits.

In the past, marginal players from the Co-Lin district wouldhave been embraced and taken into the fold. Now, Case is lookingfor better players outside the district.

“We are two deep at nearly every position,” said Case. “Thatcauses us some real recruiting problems. We are mainly looking forpitchers and most of them will come from out of state.”

Case encourages some players to walk on at Co-Lin. Fall workoutscan be rewarding and lead to a position on the team in the spring.One of the prerequisites is speed; the faster the better.

Regarding the Co-Lin district, Case already has signedpitcher/infielder Cole Zumbro of Franklin County. He expects tosign catcher/infielder Chase Coley of Loyd Star and pitcher MichaelEdwards of Lawrence County.

Certainly, pitchers Jacob Blakeney and Josh Garrett will bedifficult to replace. Blakeney signed early with Mississippi Stateand Garrett signed with Southern Miss.

Looking back on the Super Regional for a moment, sophomorepitcher Chris Kennedy of Brookhaven pitched exceptionally well inCo-Lin’s victory over St. Catharine (Ky.). Kennedy worked his wayup the pitching rotation, changed to a sidearm delivery and made acontribution to Co-Lin’s success.

Kennedy is considering a scholarship offer from William CareyCollege in Hattiesburg. Pitcher Doug Atkins and his brother,outfielder Brandon Atkins are being recruited by Carey and TroyState University. Third baseman Britt Hederman is being recruitedby Belhaven and Carey.

Co-Lin found itself in a bind when the regional tournament atFulton arrived. Star freshman centerfielder Arlandus Brown becameineligible for the regional when he withdrew from a class afterspring break. Brandon Atkins moved to center field and played wellbut suffered a torn ACL in the Super Regional.

Freshman Brett Duncan shifted from right field to center whenAtkins went down. Freshman Jason Miles moved to right field andfreshman Seth Lofton moved to left field.

Co-Lin (34-26) was able to beat host St. Louis Community Collegeat Forest Park in the Central District opener and then dispose ofSt. Catharine. Forest Park rallied to hand Co-Lin its firsttournament loss, 10-6, Saturday night. The Highlanders eliminatedCo-Lin 10-2 in the final game on Sunday afternoon, gaining ameasure of revenge for last year.

Forest Park head coach Darin Hendrickson was ejected from thefirst-game loss to Co-Lin. He was more controlled in thefinale.

Case went over to the Forest Park dugout after the game andcongratulated the Highlanders. “I wished them good luck in theWorld Series. Since they are from our district, I want them torepresent us well.”

Last year Co-Lin finished fourth in the World Series. TheHighlanders have a tough act to follow, both on and off thefield.