POPLARVILLE - Following five weeks of fall workouts, Pearl River Community College baseball coach Josh Hoffpauir feels pretty good about his 2012 Wildcat squad, which will be his second. His first team was 28-21 and reached the MACJC state playoffs. His second team will be young, full of freshmen, as well as some older position players who will be called on for leadership roles. Even though we will be young, that wont be an excuse, said Hoffpauir. The older guys will help us. We will be athletic. We have good chemistry. The guys worked hard this fall and hopefully that will carry over for the spring. But the jury is still out on how good we will be. The fall session included a couple of doubleheaders, one against Baton Rouge at a South Alabama event and the other against Meridian. Hoffpauir expects leadership roles to be filled by several returnees, including sophomore shortstop Aaron Lee of Pearl River Central, who hit .315 last season, outfielder Chase Toussiant of Petal, second baseman Chase Llewallen of Sumrall, first baseman Derek Sanders of Mendenhall, an original Mississippi State signee; catcher Chad Livingston of Slidell, La., a transfer from Southeastern Louisiana; and third baseman Matt Linton of East Central, who hit .320 for the Wildcats two years ago before sitting out last season. We hit .315 as a team last year, said Hoffpauir. This year, our philosophy will be to apply pressure on the opposing teams. We wont hit for a lot of power, but we do have some guys who can hit the long ball. And, we will be strong on the mound and defensively. We were not very strong defensively last year. We focused on that this fall. The pitching corps will be led by Petal sophomore lefthander Taylor Byrd, who was 5-4 last season with a 3.7 earned-run-average. Hoffpauir expects freshmen Ryan Deemes of Chalmette, La., Cody Conkle of Petal, Brandon Pennington of Sumrall and Tyler Summers of Greene County to contribute big on the mound as well as. In the infield, Sanders and Biloxi freshman Marcus Lawton Jr. will hold down first base, Llewallen and freshman Ryan Best of Oak Grove are at second, Lee at shortstop and Linton at third base. Llewallen hit .330 last season. Livingston, and freshmen Forrest Dungan of Columbia and Tyler Moore of Moorehead are the catchers. Joining Toussaint in the outfield are freshman Braxton Lee of Picayune in center and battling for playing time in left are freshmen Austin Carter of Sumrall, Clint Willouby of Clinton and a host of others. It a good group that we have, said Hoffpauir. We will be better physically and mentally. They are buying into what we are trying to do. When the Wildcats open the 2012 season Feb. 15 at home against Bishop (Ala.) State, Wildcat fans will find a new outfield fence in place. It features a leftfield wall, some 25 feet high, as well as a deck in right field for Dugout Club supporters. Assistant coaches for the Wildcats are Zack Zulli (hitters and infielders) and former PRCC pitching star Kyle Lindsey (pitchers), student assistants are Gatlin Steelman and Justin Sones and managers are Johnathan Crawford and Jacob Russell. Hoffpauir says the winner of the North Division of the MACJC will host this year state championship and the winner of the north division will host the region tournament.
Submitted by braswell on December 13, 2011 - 9:00am