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Brakemen get ready for season

Practice is under way and the Brookhaven Brakemen are anxious toget their Cotton State Baseball League summer campaign started. Thewooden bat league, reserved for graduating high school seniors andcollege level players, features six teams. The Brakemen will playtheir home games on Brookhaven Academy’s field.

Field manager Pete Young, has been sending theBrakemen through their paces and the team shows a lot of promise.Young, the pitching coach at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, is aformer Mississippi State star.

The Brakemen debut on Saturday, June 8, versus Jackson. Theywill play a doubleheader on Frierson Field, located on theMississippi College campus in Clinton. Action begins at 2:30p.m.

On Sunday, June 9, the Brakemen host the Pearl Patriots for atwinbill, starting at 2:30. The Patriots are managed byEric Stokes, a Brookhaven native and current assistantcoach at Belhaven College.

There’s no shortage of baseball knowledge in the CottonState League. William Carey College head coach Buddy Halford isdirecting the Hattiesburg Hub City Wheels. Jamie McMahon, assistantcoach at Pearl River Community College, directs the PoplarvilleRivercats. Omar Johnson, assistant coach at Jackson State, directsthe Clinton Trace. Buddy Large, former head coach of the JacksonSenators, is field manager for the Jackson franchise.

The CSL features players from the SEC, SWAC, C-USA,Division II conferences and the community college league. Usingthat wooden bat gives them a taste of the Major League experience.It’s a major adjustment from the lighter aluminum bats the playersare most familiar with.

The Brakemen include a mixture of local, area andout-of-state players, most of them with Co-Lin connections. Fromthe local schools are catcher Aaron Oberschmidt, first baseman BenGoza and second baseman Cayce Wallace of Brookhaven/Co-Lin,pitchers Seth Lofton and Cass Brister of Loyd Star/Co-Lin and JacobLeggett of Bogue Chitto/Co-Lin; and outfielders Jeffrey Waycasterand Ben Davis of Brookhaven Academy/Co-Lin.

Among the area players are pitcher Michael Edwards andoutfielder Nathan Evans of Lawrence County/Co-Lin; pitcher LanceDeville and outfielder Vance Windom of Franklin County/Co-Lin;pitcher Mitch Mangum, catcher Jeb Lee and infielder Brandon Hubbardof Simpson Academy/Co-Lin; outfielder Joey Sullivan of Mize/Co-Lin,catcher-infielder Anthony McLinn of McLaurin/Co-Lin and pitcherTyler Peret of Jackson Prep/Co-Lin.

Established senior college stars on the squad are pitcherJacob Blakeney and infielder Josh Thoms of MississippiState, and pitcher Josh Garrett of Belhaven by way of LawrenceCounty and Co-Lin. Blakeney and Garrett both started for two yearsat Co-Lin. Thoms, a sophomore from Newton, helped the Bulldogssweep Ole Miss in the regular season finale and advance to the SECTournament.

Each of these players have paid a $400 entry fee to playfor the Brakemen. In other words, they expect to see plenty ofaction this summer.

Young and his assistant coach, former Brakeman JustinEntrican, will guide the the Brakemen through a 40-game schedule.The season, featuring 7-inning, week-day games and weekenddoubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday, concludes July 18. Two yearsago Young guided the Brakemen to the league championship and wasnamed all-star team manager.

Entrican just completed his senior college requirementsat Tennessee-Martin. He also played for Freed-HardmanCollege.

“We will be real young but we will be competitivebecause we have some good pitching,” predicts Young. “My mainconcern is some position players who are high schoolguys.”

Young said it is a major leap for the high school starswho are suddenly matching wits with wiser, stronger and fastercollege level players.

“You have to adjust to the wood bats,” said Young. “Youhave to learn how to play smallball.” Young means players mustconcentrate on improving their bunt, hit-and-runskills.

“Everybody wants to play professional baseball,” saidYoung. “You’ll get a little shot of it in this league. You’ll playa lot of games and travel is not that great. It’s in the heat ofsummer, too.”

Young said CSL commissioner Tim Bennett is doing a greatjob running the organization. Brookhaven Academy high schoolprincipal Ray Ishee is serving as the Brakemen’s generalmanager.

In other baseball news, former Co-Lin star Jason”Spanky” Kinchen continues to climb the minor league ladder.Kinchen recently slugged his 12th homer for the Norwich (Conn.)Navigators, a Class AA affiliate of the New YorkYankees.