SCOOBA – After waiting out this week's persistent rain, the East Mississippi Community College baseball team is slated to open the 2020 season on the road with a Saturday afternoon doubleheader against Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa. First pitch for EMCC's season-opening twin bill is set for 1 p.m. at the Shelton State Baseball Complex.
Due to this week's heavy rain and resulting poor field conditions, EMCC's scheduled Friday season opener at home versus Missouri-based Jefferson College was cancelled. In addition, the Lions' road doubleheader against Shelton State was moved up one day to Saturday to avoid possible incoming rain conflicts.
On the heels of last year's transition season for the Lions, second-year EMCC head baseball coach Brett Kimbrel brought in former Lion players Chase Reeves and Hunter Floyd to be his assistant coaches, while at the same time making an adaptation of his own by taking over the team's pitching coach responsibilities. Reeves, who previously sandwiched two years on the Scooba campus as a player between stints at Ole Miss, Southern Miss and Blue Mountain, now handles EMCC's hitters. Floyd, a former southpaw pitcher for the Lions, assists Kimbrel with the team's pitchers.
"The pitchers are adapting to my pitching philosophy of being a location and mechanics guy," Kimbrel noted. "The pitching plan is to be able to force contact by not walking people."
Along with putting emphasis on EMCC's pitchers throwing strikes, Kimbrel and his staff are also stressing vocal leadership coming from their sophomores as well as showcasing the team's collective improved athletic ability.
"The sophomore class as a whole has stepped up to lead by example," Kimbrel added. "Our freshmen are pretty much fearless for the most part and they bring some energy to the table. Our improved athleticism all around fits more my style of putting pressure on the defense by being able to run."
Among EMCC's returning position players include 2019 MACJC all-state second-teamer Austin Beech (.331) and valuable two-sport, dual-position performer Josh Smith (.320) coming over from football. Power hitters Stuart Coggins and Dillon Morgan are back after each hitting four home runs as freshmen, as are experienced middle infielders John Ross Briggs and Reiley Tate.
On the mound, the Lions welcome back the services of Reid Blakely, Chance Denson, Austin Campbell and Smith, who combined to make 16 pitching starts between them last season for EMCC.
While bringing back a solid corps of veteran players from last year's EMCC squad, the Lions should also benefit from adding a competitive group of newcomers from successful high school baseball programs.
"The freshman class we've brought in this year is filled with blue-collar guys that came from good programs and understand the game while also understanding how to win," Kimbrel said.
Contact: David Rosinski, EMCC Sports Information Director