Choctaw Baseball Has Built a Championship-Caliber Program/by Corey Rholdon
The Mississippi College baseball team has built a championship-caliber program over the past few seasons. Just a few years ago the team was 12-34, but the past two seasons they have won a combined 64 games including a Gulf South Conference (GSC) championship. This season there are a lot of new faces, and it has gotten off to a rocky start. But confidence and expectations are still high in Clinton.
“We have a new group, and it was going to be interesting to see how this year will go with all the new guys gelling with the returners,” said assistant coach Josh Perez.
The team is currently 3-3 coming off two losses in a home series against Young Harris. Even still, Perez is confident that his team will start clicking. “So far, I’ve felt confident on what we have done on the mound, and what we have done defensively. We have been battling some injuries early on, but our last game we really showed what type of team we can be offensively. Our offense really didn’t struggle until the third game of the opening series, so what we worked on is simplifying things—getting back into rhythm—and things fell into place. We went back to that on Sunday, and we ended up ten run ruling a really good team in Young Harris,” said Perez.
Infielder Grant Barber has been at Mississippi College for four years, and he has seen the rise of the program. Barber feels confident going into the opening series of the GSC. “We have a lot of new guys, and it is a learning curve just to see what everybody does well. I think every game we will start gelling more and more. Right now we are just going back to the basics, and we are trying to figure everything out individually. We have plenty of talent, and we start GSC play this week, and we have a good feeling about it,” said Barber.
One of the brightest spots on this Choctaw baseball team has been the emergence of newcomer Caleb Reese. The first basemen is hitting .412 with a homerun and 5 RBIs. “This past weekend gave us a wake up call on what we need to do during practice, and prepare for the upcoming series against West Alabama,” said Reese.
Mississippi College put in a turf field this off-season, and it has been a big advantage for both on field play and off. “We got to host the last series against Young Harris moved back to our place, and I don’t ever think since I’ve been here that’s happened. Fielding-wise it has helped tremendously, as we are fielding over .970 right now, and our only errors have been on bad throws. We are not missing any days because of rain, and it has been awesome for recruiting,” said Perez.
The strength of the team has been their speed and athleticism. Perez and Barber are ready for the team to gel and show to that potential. “We have a lot of athleticism and speed. The first game we stole 11 bases. If our guys are getting on base then we can really apply pressure to the other team. We have a lot of pop, even though we haven’t performed where I wanted them to. We are averaging over a home run per game right now,” said Perez.
“Our new guys—Ken, George, Woogie, and Kaleb—have so much talent, and once it starts clicking, I know we can be one of the most dangerous teams in the conference and in the country,” said Barber.
“This team can go as far as they want in regards to talent. We were really deep; we have had some guys step in because of injuries. When our offense is rolling and this team is clicking, I think we can go as far as we want. We can win the GSC, we can go into regionals, and we can compete for a National Championship,” Perez said.
Mississippi College will see if they can put it together this weekend as they open up GSC play against West Alabama.