No. 20 Meridian Community College opens the 2020 baseball season with a four-game set Saturday and Sunday, at Scaggs Field as they host NJCAA Div 1 opponent John A. Logan. The Volunteers are one of the mainstays in the Div 1 rankings and are coming off a 44 win season in 2019. The series will start with a doubleheader at noon on Saturday, February 8, and conclude with a doubleheader Sunday, also starting at noon.
Head Coach Dillon Sudduth said, "We are excited to get the season going this weekend. The boys have been working extremely hard and are ready to play someone else in a different uniform. We will be tested right out of the gate with one of the top teams in all of junior college baseball coming to town in John A Logan out of Illinois. Our nonconference schedule is again very challenging to prepare us for our league. The MACJC is the toughest conference in the country and keeps getting better every year."
Coach Sudduth goes on to say, "At our level, you go into every season with some unknowns, but I really like this group. On the mound, we return a couple of major pieces to the staff and will need to solidify some roles throughout the early part of the season. Offensively we should be able to score some runs with a nice balance of speed and power throughout the lineup. We will be a hard-nosed group and should be a fun team to watch play."
The Meridian Community College Eagles will return five starters from the 29-15, 2019 team. Kace Garner (OF/C) led the 2019 team in home runs with 16 while batting .306 and looks to add some power to the middle of the lineup for the Eagles. Donovan Shows (C/1B) caught 90% of the Eagles games last season will once again be behind the plate for the Eagles pitching staff. Shows batted .336 with three home runs. Jean Luis Torres will spend most of his time at first base again this season. Torres hit .287 with four home runs last season. Colton Hipp's season was cut short last year due to injury, but Hipp plans to pick up where he left off last season. Before his injury, Hipp was batting .431 with six home runs in only 18 games. Returning to the mound for the Eagles will be sophomore Austin Huggins. Huggins also missed significant time last season due to injury but appears ready to lead the way for the Eagles this season. Huggins only appeared in ten games last season and had 2-2 record with 27 strikeouts and a 4.37 ERA.
Other returning players to watch are Max Sharp, Davis Ferguson, and Banks Tolley. Sharp will continue to his role as a relief pitcher again this year for the Eagles. Last year Sharp led the team in appearances with 18 and posted a 3-0 record with a 4.02 ERA while striking out 30. Ferguson spent most of his time in the outfield last season but will make the transition to the mound primarily this season. Ferguson pitched five innings last season and struck out seven batters. Tolley filled in the outfield last season but looks to have a more permanent role out there this year. Last season Tolley batted .259 with four extra-base hits.
The Eagles have a host of first-year players that will have significant roles on the diamond this season. Adam Moncure is a redshirt freshman transfer from Northwestern State University and was a dandy dozen his senior year at Clinton High School. Moncure will patrol the outfield and add some power to the middle of the lineup for the Eagles. Sophomore transfer from Jones College, Easton Rainer, will start the season at second base and add a strong left-handed bat to the lineup. Freshman transfer from Southern University, Kimani Davis will compete to be a conference starter. Freshmen Bridley Thomas from Northwest Rankin High School will start at shortstop for the Eagles, and Hunter McClean from Cantonment, FL, will start at third base. Freshmen Christian Jones from Tuscaloosa, AL, and Griffin Little from Starkville Academy will compete for a spot as conference starters. Freshman Chandler Cline from Taylorsville, MS, will be dual-threat for the Eagles both in the outfield and on the mound.
If you would like to keep up with the Eagles this season, please visit our website, www.mcceagles.com, for all schedules, stats, and news. We look forward to seeing you at Scaggs Field this spring.