While the weather hasn’t been overly kind to the 2013-14 edition of the Chattanooga State Baseball team, work is still being done to prepare for another year of quality JUCO baseball and TCCAA competition. This will be the 11th year for Head Coach Greg Dennis and, while it will also be his 28th as a head coach at the Junior College level, he said he never tires of the excitement or hard work that goes into preparing young men for competition and commitment off and on the field.
“We feel we have a great group of guys in this year,” said Coach Dennis, “And I know that the coaching staff (Joe Wingate sixth year, Coty Green third year and Trey Burstrom second year) is excited about working with them and seeing them develop.”
The Tigers are coming off of a remarkable season last year where they led the conference for the better part of 8 weeks only to come up a little shy of a championship at the end. The conference tournament netted a big win against always tough Dyersburg State along with two hard-fought very close losses to Volunteer State. The Tigers had 3 First Team All Conference players in Sophomores Aaron Wright ( 1B ), Casey Mannion ( DH ) and Jordan McDonald (SS ) as well as a Second Teamer in Tyler McClure ( So. LHP).
“Overall, last season was enjoyable but disappointing in that we had a golden chance to do something special as a group and fell a little short,” said Dennis, “We are losing quite a bit as we had 17 sophomores last year (an amazing 6 of them graduated from Chatt State) and are only bringing back 4 guys with any experience from last year.”
Returners include Tyler Troutt (LHP, Alcoa HS ) who had a remarkable season last year and will anchor a young but talented staff. Shelden Brogden (OF, Notre Dame HS) got hurt last year, sat out the whole season and will be a red-shirt freshman this year. Ryan Whitt (OF, Brentwood HS ) and Jerad Wilson (OF, Rowlett HS) also return after having played almost the entire season as starters in the outfield. “Troutt has the chance to be a phenomenal lefty for us much in the mold of Patrick Merkling (currently in Single A) and Tyler McClure (Georgia State University),” said Dennis “and we really feel that from an outfield standpoint and offensive standpoint Brogden, Whitt and Wilson should be go-to type guys for us and super leaders.”
Obviously, new guys abound for the Tigers as the entire infield will be new and the majority of the pitchers also. Lane Bloom (C, William Blount), Scout Plott (C, Coahulla Creek) and Alex Brown (C, Blackman) are all vying for catching time along with a few guys that play other positions also. Michael Goss (R-Fr, Cartersville) and Jay Rhoten (Fr, Goodpasture) are competing at first base right now while second base and shortstop have a bevy of players in: Andy Clay (Fr., Loganville), Chris Cuzzort (Fr., Woodlands), Brandon Day (So., LaSalle University), Tyler Hendley (So., Temple College TX ), Alec Meadows (Fr., Beech), Ben Young (Fr., Maryville) and Michael Reece (R-Fr., Roane State). Competition at third base will also be tough as Brandon Day, Spencer Mossburg (Fr., Silverdale Baptist), Jean Paul Rodriguez (Fr., Dominican Republic) and Evan Smith (So., St. Catherines College) will all spend some time over there this fall. The outfield already has the three sophomores returning but will also sport some new blood. Colt Henderson (Fr., Gilmer), Tre Lawrence (Fr., Brookwood), Alec Meadows, Spencer Mossburg and Stefan Remus (Fr., Friendship Christian) will all compete with the returnees and try to earn starting nods. Coach Dennis said, “All of these guys are really good and we feel we have a nice mix of transfers and new freshman. The ability some of these guys have hasn’t been shown here yet due to the weather but it is there and will be coming out soon, we are sure.”
On the mound the Tigers will have a new group for pitching coach Coty Green to work with and the options are certainly there. Andy Clay, Tyler Crawford (Fr., Seymour), Austin Godwin and Brennan Swindoll (both Fr., Friendship Christian), Clayton Mason (Fr., Lake Placid FL), Spencer Mossburg, Daniel Raby (Fr., Maryville), Stefan Remus, Brandon Smith (Fr., Mt. Juliet), Zach Thompson (Fr., Ooltewah), AJ Vazquez (So. Danville CC IL) and Troutt will hopefully form a formidable group. “I know Coty is excited about the various abilities of these guys and we are looking forward to seeing them in scrimmages soon this fall,” said Dennis.
The Tigers are busy working out six days a week currently through the middle of October. They are also hosting high school Fall League games on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights through mid-October.
“Between scrimmages, practices, Fall League games, recruiting and classes this time is incredibly busy,” said Dennis, “People have no concept of how busy these guys are or how much truly goes into this in order to make it successful for all involved.”
Follow the Tigers on Twitter at ChattStTigersBB or via their Facebook page “Chattanooga State Baseball “ or on their website at www.chattanoogastate.edu/athletics and find out more about the Tigers and their players and staff. The season will begin on Jan. 31 at home vs. Georgia Perimeter College at 1 p.m.