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Lots of new faces on Co-Lin’s baseball team

WESSON – Copiah-Lincoln Community College baseball fans definitely will need a program to identify most of the players on Coach Keith Case’s 2013 edition. Only a handful of veterans return from the 23-20 squad of last year.

Case, 51, is entering his 21st season at the Co-Lin helm. He expects his team to be improved in several areas, especially at the plate.

Case’s team has a noon doubleheader Saturday against Bishop State, at the University of Mobile, Ala. diamond. Their first home game is Feb. 16, against Kaskaskia (Ill.), in Sullivan Stadium.

Case said he was encouraged by his team’s progress during the fall.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Case. “We had a good fall and won some games. We beat Meridian and Gulf Coast in the fall.”

“I like the fact that our players can swing the bat,” Case continued. “Offensively, we can bang it around a little bit.”

Junior college coaches encounter an annual rebuilding project. In Co-Lin’s case, there are more than a few vacancies to fill in the starting lineup.

“We lost a big core of last year’s squad,” said Case. “Basically, the entire outfield, plus a shortstop and corner infielders.”

On the bright side, Co-Lin returns starting catcher Jonathan Santana and second baseman Gabe Wilson. At the plate, Wilson batted .374, driving in 21 runs and hitting 16 doubles. Santana batted .278 and hit 5 home runs, driving in 24 runs on the season.

Case also has experience on the corners of the infield. Will Gatlin at first base and Matt Smith at third saw productive seasons. Smith batted .354 and owned a team-high 32 RBIs, plus 5 homers. Gatlin batted .250.

Mitch Little, a first and third baseman, was a starter last season. A broken wrist required surgery in the fall. He may have to sit out this season.

As always, pitching will be the key to success. Co-Lin lost No. 1 starter Tyler Copeland, plus pitchers Raymond Winter, Josh Wages, Stephen Joe and Korey Allen.

Southpaw Ryan Goddard, and right-handers Tyler Case and Cody Smith are among the returning veterans. Smith and Goddard were a combined 6-1 in 30 innings of mound duty.

There are a number of new faces in the Co-Lin bullpen. Freshman Philip Lott of Purvis, Shane McKinley from McComb Parklane, Dominique Savage of Port Gibson and Milton Griffin of Franklin County have strong arms.

“Our only concern is the depth of our pitching staff and if we can stay healthy,” Case added. “We will be facing the No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers when we start (South) division play.”

Ryan Young at shortstop, a freshman from Central Private, has shown lots of promise.

Conner Burke, along with Smith and Dugas are working at third base. Christopher Perry had a promising performance at the plate in fall drills. He plays first base.

“This year will be interesting,” said Case. “We have more guys who will play the field and pitch, too.”

Matt Smith, Caleb Dugas and Wilson also can pitch, if necessary.

Santana and Keith Martin worked at catcher last season. Martin batted .333 in 13 games.

In the outfield, Case said three transfers could make an immediate impact. They are Dylan Anglin of Sumrall, Julio Rivera, from Marion (Ala.) Institute; and Cole Page from Northwest at Senatobia. Anglin had Tommy John surgery last year. Rivera also pitches.

Working as assistant coaches are Bryan Nobile, pitching coach; and newcomer Rhyne Tutor, hitting instructor and outfielders coach.