EMCC Lions set to begin baseball season with new-look team and fully turfed home field

Published 9:52 am Thursday, February 9, 2023

SCOOBA – On the heels of putting together their best season in seven years, the Lions of East Mississippi Community College are looking forward to continued success on the baseball diamond with a talented new team assembled and a fully turfed home field awaiting the first pitch of EMCC’s 2023 baseball season.


With 11 returners, 20 incoming freshmen and four transfers on this year’s EMCC baseball roster, the Lions are scheduled to begin the season on the road Thursday, Feb. 9, against preseason 20th-ranked and 2022 NJCAA Division I Baseball World Series participant Snead State Community College. Thursday’s season-opening doubleheader is slated for a noon start in Boaz, Ala.

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East Mississippi will then get the opportunity to showcase the college’s completely turfed baseball playing field and refurbished batting cages at Gerald Poole Field by playing host to Snead State and Jackson State (TN) CC on Saturday (Feb. 11) in a scheduled three-game baseball event on the Scooba campus. Saturday’s slate is set for EMCC-JSCC at 11 a.m., followed by JSCC-SSCC at 2 p.m., and EMCC-SSCC in the 5 p.m. nightcap. All games are scheduled for seven innings.


EMCC head baseball coach Brett Kimbrel understands the task won’t be easy in attempting to replace more than two-thirds of last year’s 28-19 Lions squad that finished third in the MACCC regular-season standings with a 20-8 conference mark and earned the No. 2 seed in the 2022 NJCAA Region 23 Baseball Tournament. However, the Lions’ fifth-year baseball skipper and his assistant coaches Chase Reeves, Dylan Earnest and Braxton Lee remain confident despite the team’s youth.


“Because we’re so young with only 11 players returning from last year’s team, we have a lot of moving pieces out there on the field,” Kimbrel noted. “I’m cautiously optimistic, though, because there is a lot of competition at each position and quality depth at every position.”


The primary returners from last year’s EMCC squad that produced 11 players who moved on to the four-year level are outfielder Ethan Medlin (Lake Charles, LA/Barbe HS) and middle infielder Coby Holmes (Saraland, AL), who both had 11 extra-base hits as everyday starters for the Lions a year ago. Medlin was All-MACCC Second Team last season.


A third returning sophomore who has seemingly cemented his name among EMCC’s frontline pitchers is Gulfport product Austin Garrison. The right-hander stepped to the forefront on the mound with a solid fall campaign after primarily playing behind current UAB junior Blayze Berry at shortstop for the Lions a season ago.


Other returning players for EMCC this season include: outfielder Brooks Buchanan (West Lauderdale HS); catcher/pitcher Zac Butler (New Hope HS); infielder Will Crawford (Corinth HS); pitcher Ian Dillon (Saltillo HS); infielder Carson Gault (New Albany HS); infielder Zack Griffith (Mize AC); pitcher Micah Johnston (Ripley HS); and outfielder Will Martin (Leake Academy).


With 24 newcomers on this year’s youthful baseball roster, the 2023 EMCC Lions will feature four transfers consisting of infielder/pitcher Gray Berry (Northeast Mississippi CC/West Point HS), left-handed pitcher Ben Riley Flowers (Central Alabama CC/Saraland, AL), catcher Tanner Parker (Meridian CC/West Lauderdale HS), and infielder Evan Radford (Southern Miss/Hoover, AL).


Last year’s EMCC baseball success helped secure another talented incoming freshman class that is comprised of versatile players from successful high school programs. The Lions’ competitive collection of newcomers from the high school ranks includes: Ayden Alsobrooks (OF-LHP/Starkville Academy); Drake Bayles (RHP/Copiah Academy); Heath Brunson (RHP/Pearl River Central HS); Hunter Brunson (RHP/Pearl River Central HS); Aiden Fancher (OF/Winston Academy); Cooper Garrison (INF-RHP/Gulfport HS); Gates Gerhart (OF/New Hope HS); Cade Hamm (RHP/Saltillo HS); Ethan Kimbrough (INF/Amory HS); Brandon King (RHP/Hancock HS); Turner Leathers (RHP/Tupelo HS); JR Moore (C/Bessemer Academy/Helena, AL); Jesse Roberts (RHP/East Webster HS); Ricardo Rodriguez (C-OF/Gulfport HS); Joe Scarborough (RHP-INF/Resurrection Catholic HS); Landon Scruggs (RHP/Center Hill HS); Walker Swearingen (RHP/Clarkdale HS); Caden Tate (OF/Starkville HS); Jack Taylor (OF-RHP/Corinth HS); and Jon Paul Yates (INF/Tupelo Christian Prep).


“We’ve got better all-around players and more competitive players this year. You can see the competitiveness at each position,” Kimbrel added. “We’re going to be young and inexperienced, but I don’t think the players worry about that. And I don’t worry about that with this team.”