After his Belhaven University team was eliminated from the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, on Monday, Drew Dillard was in a hurry to return to Mississippi.
He was trying to get back in time for his summer team’s opening game in New Albany. Drew Dillard’s Tallahatchie Rascals’ club was kicking off the 2010 BNA Bank Cotton States Baseball League North Division season against the North Delta Dealers at the New Albany Sportsplex’s Legion Field on Tuesday night.
Although he didn’t play on opening night and his Rascals lost 7-3, Dillard, the Rascals and the rest of the CSBL have settled in for their second season in New Albany.
It’s year two of the Cotton States Baseball League North Division and there has already been some changes to the summer collegiate wooden-bat league.
Among the notable changes is the North Division expanding to five teams and mid-week doubleheaders no longer being on the schedule.
The Tippah County Tribe will make its debut tonight at the New Albany Sportsplex’s Legion Field. Leading the Tribe will be Blue Mountain College head coach Curt Fowler.
This weekend, the Tribe will play in the first Sunday doubleheader of the season, as it plays the Thunder in Game 1 beginning at 1:30 p.m.
The second game of the Sunday doubleheaders will be the Van Atkins Jewelers’ Game of the Week, and those games may be heard on local ESPN Radio affiliate WXWX (96.3 FM).
And with the new changes come new faces. Baldwyn High baseball coach Gregg Tucker will take over the head coaching duties for the CSBL’s Golden Triangle Jets; he will be accompanied by Alcorn Central High assistant Keith Essary.
Itawamba AHS baseball coach Brian Long will join the Tupelo Thunder as an assistant to first-year head coach Buddy Hall.
Holdovers from the first year include Rascals head coach Chris Basil and the Dealers’ Doug Robbins.
“The coaches certainly help us with the recruiting process,” said CSBL official Frank Dodds, whose son, Drew Dodds, plays for the Tupelo Thunder. “Those coaches know the young men and help us in recruiting them. They (the players) see a name and want to play for that coach.”
As far as the new players go, Brandon Milhouse (Arkansas State), Daniel Milhouse (Memphis) and Evan Frazier (Tennessee Tech) will be playing their debut seasons in the CSBL this summer.
Jimel Judon, an Ole Miss signee, is playing season No. 2 for the Rascals, while Matt Shaw of Southern Miss is again suiting up for the Dealers.
“They’re such good representatives of their universities and their colleges,” Dodds said of the players in the league. “They are great role models and they are accessible to the kids.”
According to Dodds, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if Division I college pitchers from schools such as Ole Miss or Mississippi State make a spot start at Legion Field during the CSBL season.
For example, Samford University and former Tupelo High pitcher Lex Rutledge made a brief appearance in the league, pitching for the Thunder in Thursday’s night’s game against the Jets. The left-hander will leave today for the Cape Cod League.
That goes to show how flexible the CSBL is with its 18-man rosters. The CSBL strives to have a competitive balance, and if one team is drastically limited at a particular position, the league will take a player from another team, with tremendous depth at that position, and place them on that team in need. Of course, that all depends on the coaches’ and players’ permission, says Dodds.
“The competitive balance is important to us in the Cotton States League,” Dodds said. “We’ll massage the lineups into the season to make sure we have the competitive balance.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572
– Teams: North Delta Dealers, Golden Triangle Jets, Tallahatchie Rascals, Tupelo Thunder, Tippah County Tribe.
– Site: All games will be played at the New Albany Sportsplex’s Legion Field.
– Tickets: Admission costs $5, and for the price of one ticket, fans can watch all four games played on Saturdays.
– Web site: cottonstatesleague.com
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal