Young Co-Lin baseball team kicks off season Wed.

Published 6:00 am Monday, February 12, 2007

WESSON — When Co-Lin baseball coach Keith Case talks about ayouth movement on Sullivan Field, believe him. With only sevenreturning sophomores on a 23-member squad, Case will depend heavilyon a group of talented freshmen to make an immediate impact in2007.

The yearlings will grow up in a hurry, starting Wednesday with aseason-opening doubleheader. The Wolfpack face Delgado, La. at noonand Coahoma at 5:30., launching an ambitious 50-game schedule.

“A lot of freshmen will have to step up in a hurry,” said Case.”We are mentally ready to play somebody. We are facing aheavyweight in Delgado.”

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The Wolfpack finished the 2006 season with a 25-22 record. Theywere the National Junior College Athletic Association’s (NJCAA) No.4 Academic Team of the Year with a 3.22 team grade pointaverage.

Lost to graduation were rightfielder Xavier Qualls (NJCAA SecondTeam All-American, NJCAA All-Region 23 First Team, MACJC First TeamAll-State, and Southeastern University signee), catcher MatthewSchexnayder (Second Team All-State and Southeastern Universitysignee), third baseman Garrett Jones, shortstop Josh Logan (SecondTeam All-State and University of Louisiana-Lafayette signee), firstbaseman Todd Siders (NJCAA Distinguished Academic All-American),designated hitter Joel Hurt, right-handed pitcher Derek Thompson(NJCAA Academic All-American and William Carey University signee),centerfielder Ryan Williams (Second Team All-State), and pitchersWill Buckles and Matthew Tubbs.

The 2006 graduates were the last remaining members of the 2005squad that finished fourth in the NJCAA Division II World Series atMillington, Tenn.

“I can’t remember having this young a team in a long time,” saidCase. “It’s been a kind of a roller-coaster preseason. We haveswung the bat well and we have some pitchers throwing well but wedon’t have much depth.”

Case said the keys to this season are more productivity from thepitching staff and replacing the offense. “The freshmen will haveto step in and make adjustments.”

Returning to the pitching staff are starter Brandon Chretian(4-4, 4.32 ERA) of Comeaux High School (LA) who pitched this summerfor the Louisiana Legends. Coming back from a elbow surgery isright hander Joseph Langham (a 2005 medical redshirt). BrettHartfield had a very impressive fall and is the only returningleft-hander. Kyle Fairley(2-2, 1.02 ERA) pitched well the firsthalf of the season and has gotten stronger after playing summerbaseball in West Point.

Six freshmen will be added to the staff: Timmy Foster of AdamsCounty Christian School, Marty Ballard of Lawrence County, AveryMathes of Vicksburg, Justin Champagne of South Terrebonne (LA),Brandt Hinton of Brookhaven High School, and Patrick Shumaker ofEast Rankin Academy.

Returning to the infield are second baseman Dane Orders (.239)and catcher Ryan Hoben (.260), who played third base and pitchedlast season. Hoben could also come out of the bullpen this season,after making 4 saves last year.

Also competing at catcher are James Antoon of Jules Sumner (LA)and Edward Joe of Ridgeland who could also serve as the designatedhitter.

Competing for infield positions are Jamie Morris, David AltonNew, and Timmy Foster, all of Adams County Christian School, JordanToney of Mendenhall, Paul Davis of Brookhaven Academy, Russ Carterof Richland, Steven GautheĀ“ of Assumption (LA).

Leftfielder Cole Hodges (.208) is the lone returning starter inthe outfield.

Case said the schedule is the toughest he’s had in the last12-13 years. All of the Wolfpack’s South Division opponents arereturning strong teams. Pearl River will have one of the strongestteams as the Wildcats boast several All-State high school players.Southwest, which finished second in the South last year, returnsstrong pitching and had a good recruiting class. Mississippi GulfCoast and Jones County will also return strong teams.

Bryan Nobile returns for his fourth season as assistant coach.He primarily works with pitchers and catchers. Former Co-Lin andTroy University standout Lance Newman begins his fourth year as avolunteer coach, along with former Co-Lin standout BlairDehart.

Langham will start on the mound against Delgado and BrandtHinton will pitch against Coahoma. Brandon Chretien will start thefirst game Sunday against Baton Rouge and Kyle Fairly the secondgame.

Foster and Hoban will work as closers.

Case, 46, is beginning his 15th season at Co-Lin. He has takentwo teams to the World Series. The 2000 edition also placedfourth.

Hoben and Edward Joe will platoon at catcher duringdoubleheaders. Paul Davis will work at first base, David New willDH and Dane Orders will start at second base. Steven Gauthe’ willbe at shortstop and Timmy Foster at third base. In left field, ColeHodges and Marty Ballard will share time. Montez Chatman will be incenter field and Taebyus Smith in right field.