Choctaw Baseball Finds its Groove Amid Fielding Position Changes / Caroline Hunt

Cooper Gadman No. 18 gingerly walked onto the mound at Frierson Field mid-sixth inning on a Tuesday night game when the Choctaws faced William Carey in a baseball matchup. With bases loaded, Gadman took the reins from Clark Presley, who had been the third pitcher subbed for the Choctaws that night. 

Stuck between a rock-and-a-hard-place, with the Choctaws leading only by a few and the scoring gap slowly closing, Gadman pitched himself out of a hole. He sealed the sixth inning with only a few hiccups in which the William Carey Raiders scored two runs. With the score 9-6 Choctaws leading, Gadman was able to aid his team to a much-needed midweek victory. 

“When I came up there, Coach Cargill [assistant coach and MC pitching specialist] just said that we’ve got a five-run lead, to just get the outs, get us back in there, limit the damage; that I’m not trying to strike out three guys in a row, but let them [the Raiders] put it in play, and let the defense work,” said Gadman, the Brandon, Miss. native. 

Gadman received the save for the night, becoming the anchor that sailed MC through to the final score of 11-6, never letting the Raiders see another point on the board after the inning Gadman stepped on the mound. Gadman hasn’t seen much playing time this year as an up-and-coming sophomore with this William Carey game being his seventh appearance all season. Yet, head coach Jeremy Haworth is optimistic about this player’s future performance. 

“Gadman has been a good bridge guy for us. When he goes in, we know the lead is safe. We just need other guys to step up like Cooper. He is valuable and confident in that role for us. You don’t really wanna change something when it’s working,” said Haworth, who is in his sixth season with the Choctaws. “We don’t need him to fall on the sword just because we want him to do something bigger. He’s young. He’s only a sophomore, but he’s doing a great job.”

Recently, the Choctaws have been experiencing some turbulence in starting position changes in vital areas of the field like on the mound and also behind the plate. Over the weekend in a 1-3 series against Valdosta State, the Choctaws utilized Caleb Reese, who has played primarily first base this season. This is the result of some inconsistencies at the plate for some season starters who are also battling injuries. 

Reese was given the catcher’s gear and continued his stint behind the plate on Tuesday night, only being relieved toward the end of the winning game. Matthew Priest took over soon after. Reese is only one of many season starters combating injuries, his being an injury to his foot. While not ideal for a catcher to have a bum foot, Haworth is making do with the resources at his disposal. 

“It’s a tough situation right now. We’re having to ask Caleb to come in and do something he hasn’t done in three years and he’s getting beat up because of it. Priest is the one who is healed up, while Derrek [Lathon] has an elbow issue,” Haworth said. “We’ve been a fragile team all year. So, we’re just gonna have to try to stay healthy and compete with what we’ve got.”

The Choctaws saw two big-hitting gains this game with two of their own slugging two home runs over the WC Raiders. Tristan Tigrett slapped one to left field in the fourth inning allowing two RBIs and Cody Crifasi homered in the sixth inning with a big jump of two RBIs as well. 

Tigrett, who also had three hits, including a double, attributed the Choctaw win to knowing the basics of baseball and relying on well-rounded training to see the victory through. 

“William Carey was a really good team, and we knew that coming in. Just trying to play our best and do the little things right, like hitting the ball well, managed to get us a win,” said Tigrett, an infielder and Hinds CC transfer. “Baseball is a tough game if you’re struggling. If you’re harping on that, you will never get better. You have to let it go, go to the next thing, and try to do better.” 

Crifasi’s home run signaled a lead in the score that sealed the game as early as the sixth inning ball went out of the Frierson right-field fence. 

“What that [an 11-6 lead] says to an opposing team is that they can’t catch up. So, it’s psychological warfare out there. Our offense did a good job of keeping on grinding it out, and then Cooper comes in and just slams the door.” 

The Choctaws will face the University of Alabama Huntsville in a weekend series starting April 1 at 6 p.m. at UAH. The upcoming weekend face-off will mark the middle of the Choctaw’s season in conference play and determine what the Choctaw ranking will be as the GSC National tournament is slated for May 6-10, 2022.

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