Meridian Star

February 7, 2014

East Central begins defense of state juco title

Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — From Staff reports

After his 2013 Diamond Warrior squad captured the program’s third state title and his second crown as head coach, Neal Holliman’s goal for the 2014 version of East Central Community College baseball is the same for each of his previous seven squads – “Maximize Potential.”

The Warriors are scheduled to start the season on Saturday in a home game against Pensacola Community College in a 1 p.m. contest.

The 2013 Diamond Warriors included a bevy of talent, led by shortstop/slugger Tim Anderson of Tuscaloosa, a first-round selection in the Major League Baseball Draft by the Chicago White Sox.

Also gone from last year’s squad is Xavier Franklin, Kalik May, Brady McBride and Jordan Mixon who signed with Mississippi Valley State.

Right-handed pitchers Fernando Gonzalez and Severino Sigma  signed with the University of West Alabama and Rubert Alcantara inked with Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla.  

Although the ultimate goal for his Diamond Warriors is to qualify for the NJCAA Division II World Series, Holliman said winning another state title was a proud accomplishment.

“Competing for the conference championship is always an external goal for us and obviously it is a tremendous boost to our program and always positive recognition that arrives from such an honor, but our focus remains on developing each and every team to be the best it can be,” said Holliman, who received his second MACJC Baseball Coach of the Year award following the 2013 championship campaign. “We are not in control of external factors but only our personal conduct, effort, attitude and preparation.”

Despite a large group of newcomers, Holliman is optimistic about the Warriors’ future.

“The number of new members on this team has been a challenge, but I believe we are continually growing in the right direction,” Holliman said. “Our sophomores are a fine group of men with talent and even though many did not start full-time as freshmen, they still played a role last season and will be expected and are eager to play a major role in the upcoming season.”

Sophomores expected to provide leadership for this year’s squad are team captains Mason Woodrow, a right-handed pitcher from Taylorsville; Maxwell Harmon, an infielder/outfielder from Enterprise; and first baseman/outfielder John Morgan Berry of Madison Central.

Other returnees include University of West Alabama signee Jake Bush, an outfielder/left-handed pitcher from Brookwood (Ala.) High School; outfielder Zach May, Newton County; right-handed pitchers Conner West of Taylorsville and Ty Hendrix of East Webster; and first baseman Caleb Woods, Leake Central. Another sophomore is right-handed pitcher Kale Fultz of Covington, Tenn., a transfer from Southwest Tenn. Community College.

Holliman said the freshmen group is also laden with talent and has the potential to be successful.

“This freshman class is growing and especially since we got back from the Christmas holidays,” said Holliman. “I believe they are learning how things are structured and exactly what is expected on a daily basis. Even though we have a lot of new players, we don’t expect them to be so-called true freshmen when the season arrives. Our coaching staff expects to have players prepared to play whether they are new or returnees, and therefore we don’t expect the mistakes that many people consider freshman mistakes.”

Freshman players and their respective high schools include outfielder Ben Cooley, South Jones; infielder Dylan Little, Mary G. Montgomery, Semmes, Ala.; short stop/second baseman Hunter Thrower, Southeast Lauderdale; outfielder Cojuante McMillian, Hamilton; left-handed pitcher Zach Mowdy, Union; outfielder Kyle McCullough, Madison Ridgeland Academy; catcher/right-handed pitcher Lane Fazende, Pearl River Central; left-handed pitcher/outfielder Will Myers, Leake Academy; catcher Todd Hughes, Clarkdale; left-handed pitcher Cory Kitchens, Heidelberg Academy; right-handed pitcher/infielder Ryan Ward, Madison Ridgeland Academy; outfielder Gage Sullivan, Richland; left-handed pitcher Nick Wilson, Terry; right-handed pitcher Dillon Drake, Puckett; third baseman/first baseman Cody Daigle, Parkview Baptist, Addis, La.; outfielder/catcher Deshawn Pittman, Quitman; outfielder Reagan Warren, Newton County; outfielder/first baseman Chance Whitten, South Panola; right-handed pitcher Colby Eaves, Nanih Waiya; and right-handed pitcher/catcher Seth Dement, Hamilton.

Holliman said the 2014 Diamond Warriors “are ready to get started” with the new season.

“This team has ability and potential but success will not be achieved without continued commitment to becoming a complete unit and possessing team chemistry that plugs all of their talents into accomplishing ‘Maximum Potential.’”

Members of Holliman’s staff include first-year assistants Scott DeLoach and Ronald Sims.

Student managers are Ephraim Ringo of Forest and Chris Yarbrough of Florence.