Sporting a revamped roster and coming off a promising showing last fall, Opening Day of the 2015 season couldn't come sooner for second year coach Matt Downs and the MMI baseball team.
With 26 new additions to the program, the Tigers will feature a much different look in the debut season of the newly-realigned ACCC North Division. "Depth was an issue we struggled with a year ago, " said Coach Downs, "but we are very optimistic about our chances to take a major step forward and compete thanks to our talented group of new players as well as our core of returning sophomores."
Among the new faces on the MMI roster are three Alabama Sportswriter's Association All-State honorees from the last season: first baseman Carson McGregory (Tuscumbia/Deshler), left-handed pitcher and outfielder Jonah Todd (Mulga/Oak Grove), and infielder Chase Hamrick (Montevallo).
The Tiger pitching staff will be bolstered by an experienced corps of sophomore right-handers. Anchoring the starting rotation and hoping to build on a dominant fall will be one of the team's most-improved players, Joe Hudson (Pleasant Grove, AL). Daniel Faulk (Bridge City, TX) will be a factor in the competition for a starting role and can also serve as a valuable swingman. Holding down the late innings out of the bullpen will be Terrance Robinson (Franklinton, LA), Andrew Mask (Panama City, FL), and Gabe Nevala (Nederland, TX).
A quintet of talented two-way players will also make significant contributions this season. Freshmen Blake Teel (Clanton, AL), Jonah Todd (Mulga, AL), Jackson Cofer (Maylene, AL), and Matthew Parker (Montevallo, AL), will see action both on the mound and in the field, as will sophomore AUM transfer Austin Anderson (Millbrook, AL).
Freshman hurlers who will log key innings for the Tigers include right-handers Dax Winningham (Oxford, AL), J.P. Ratliff (Clanton, AL), Ray Padilla (Fontana, CA), Micah Agee (Vineland, AL), Blaine Milam (Millbrook, AL), Austin Clay (McCalla, AL), and Ray Beede (Fayette, AL), along with a pair of Huntsville-area southpaws, Chad Robinson (Owens Cross Roads) and Jesse Wheeler (Madison, AL).
Sophomore Yancey Foster (Port Neches, TX) returns for his second season behind the plate and after hitting a solid .303/.411/.368 last year, will be counted on to serve as a middle-of-the-order run producer. Sharing the catching duties with Foster are freshmen Zack Seagle (Alabaster, AL), Justin Bisharat (Pleasant Grove, AL), and Chase Whiddon (Honoraville, AL).
A much-improved Tiger infield will be led by incumbent shortstop Alex Reyna (Houston, TX), who ended last season (.277/.377/.300) on a hot streak that carried over into the fall. First base will be manned by Carson McGregory, along with freshman Andrew Rice (Ashford, AL) and sophomore Kyle Sloan (DeFuniak Springs, FL). Freshman Zach Neumann (Huntsville, AL) will see plenty of action at second base, with Chase Hamrick and Austin Anderson also in the mix at the keystone. Divvying up the playing time among the talented group of third baseman may very well be one of the biggest challenges Coach Downs will face this season, as Blake Teel, Brant Lewis (Linden, AL), Mel Harwell (Alabaster, AL), and the versatile Hamrick are all capable options. Freshmen Kolby Brannon (Boaz, AL), Dalton Pollard (Millport, AL), and Cameron Honeycutt (Cordova, AL), offer positional flexibility and can contribute all over the infield, while fleet-footed freshman Zeb Wilson (Brandenburg, KY) provides an element of speed on the bases.
Looking to build on a respectable freshman campaign in which he hit .278/.357/.400 will be right fielder Steven Ward (Alabaster, AL). Joining Ward in the Tiger outfield will be a pair of talented sophomore transfers, Parker Farley (Duncanville, AL/Faulkner) and Matthew Duncan (Russellville, AL/West Alabama). Freshmen Jonah Todd and Jackson Cofer will see significant playing time, with Hamrick, Justin Bisharat, and Matthew Parker also in the mix.
Also new to the Tiger program this season is assistant Coach Hunter Norris, whose contributions have already been praised by Coach Downs. "The addition of Coach Norris to the staff has been tremendous," said Downs, "Not only does he have experience playing at this level, he also possesses a keen understanding of the game. The fact that his academic background is in sports medicine is also a considerable bonus." Coach Norris is an honors graduate of the University of Mobile (B.S. Human Performance and Exercise Science), where he was a two-year starter at first base and in the outfield for the Rams. Coach Norris began his playing career at Jefferson Davis Community College in Brewton.
The Tigers open their season on Friday, January 30th at Scott G. Davis Field against Roane State Community College of Harriman, TN.