By David Wheeler/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
The Itawamba Indians’ 2013 baseball team has 16 more games scheduled before its first North Division contest.
Head coach Rick Collier hopes to build some team chemistry before those games in mid-March.
His Indians opened the season with a pair of weekend losses on the road at Calhoun and begins their home campaign this afternoon with a doubleheader – delayed from Wednesday by bad weather – against Southwest Tennessee.
First pitch is set for 1 p.m.
“We could have several different batting orders in the first 18 to 20 games,” Collier said. “I like this team, it’s a mixture of sophomores and freshmen.
“It is a good group of sophomores from the 39-13 team last year, and we have a chance to do some good things.”
The defending North Divisionchampions have sophomores scattered throughout the various phases of the game that could provide leadership and clutch baseball, beginning with pitcher Ben Hudspeth of Tupelo.
The right-hander was 11-0 last season with a 1.42 ERA, and has already signed with Mississippi State.
Collier will have other options on the mound as well, beginning with the sophomore experience of Dylan Earnest of Hamilton and Collin Minga of Mantachie. Look for freshmen help from Tyler Nelms from Kossuth and Ben Aldridge from Tupelo, with sophomores Jake Smith from New Hope and Will Cockrell from Tupelo Christian in the mix.
Shortstop Tyler Tipton from Kentucky is another Southeastern Conference signee (Kentucky), and should help anchor the defense for the Indians.
Expect William Goss from Tupelo to anchor the outfield, with Brent Younger from New Hope, Ethan Gill from Pontotoc, and Brayden Owen from Tupelo as other infield options.
Outfielder Cody Shrewsbury from Tupelo should make more of a splash with the bat after a .381 average with seven home runs and 37 RBIs in 2012.
“If some freshmen grow up, we could be better offensively than last year,” Collier said. “Hopefully we’ll have no injuries, and hopefully everything will come together.”