2/5/2014 6:00:00 AM ECCC Diamond Warriors begin defense of state title
After his 2013 Diamond Warrior squad captured the program's third state title and his second crown as head coach, Neal Holliman's goal for the 2014 version of East Central Community College baseball is same for each of his previous seven squads - "Maximize Potential."
The 2013 Diamond Warriors included a bevy of talent, led by shortstop/slugger Tim Anderson of Tuscaloosa, a first-round selection in the Major League Baseball Draft by the Chicago White Sox.
Anderson, the only community college player in the nation invited to attend the draft selection program held in New York and shown live on ESPN, also garnered the 2013 David Rowlands Award, presented to the nation's top JUCO male athlete, in addition to receiving NJCAA Division II All-American, Region 23 and MACJC All-State honors.
The former Hillcrest (Ala.) High School standout also received team most valuable player honors after helping lead ECCC to the state title and third-place finish in the Region 23 Tournament en route to a 32-21 record.
Other team members from the state championship squad continuing their careers include outfielder Xavier Franklin (Newton County) and Terrance Steele (Neshoba Central), infielder/outfielder Kalik May (Tuscaloosa County), left-handed pitcher Brady McBride (Northeast Jones) and right-handed pitcher/third baseman Jordan Mixon (East Webster), who all signed with Mississippi Valley State.
Regarding the outlook for this year's squad, which begins season action by hosting Pensacola Community College at 1 p.m. Saturday Holliman said:
"The number of new members on this team has been a challenge, but I believe we are continually growing in the right direction.
Our sophomores are a fine group of men with talent and even though many did not start full-time as freshmen, they still played a role last season and will be expected and are eager to play a major role in the upcoming season."
Sophomores expected to provide leadership for this year's squad are team captains Mason Woodrow, a right-handed pitcher from Taylorsville; Maxwell Harmon, an infielder/outfielder from Enterprise; and first baseman/outfielder John Morgan Berry, a first-baseman/outfielder from Madison Central.
Other returnees include University of West Alabama signee Jake Bush, an outfielder/left-hander pitcher from Brookwood (Ala.) High School; outfielder Zach May, Newton County; right-handed pitchers Conner West of Taylorsville and Ty Hendrix of East Webster; and first baseman Caleb Woods, Leake Central. Another sophomore is right-handed pitcher Kale Fultz of Covington, Tenn., a transfer from Southwest Tenn. Community College.
Holliman said the freshmen group is also laden with talent and has the potential to be successful.
Freshman players and their respective high schools include outfielder Ben Cooley, South Jones; infielder Dylan Little, Mary G. Montgomery, Semmes, Ala.; short stop/second baseman Hunter Thrower, Southeast Lauderdale; outfielder Cojuante McMillian, Hamilton; left-handed pitcher Zach Mowdy, Union; outfielder Kyle McCullough, Madison Ridgeland Academy; catcher/right-handed pitcher Lane Fazende, Pearl River Central; left-handed pitcher/outfielder Will Myers, Leake Academy; catcher Todd Hughes, Clarkdale; left-handed pitcher Cory Kitchens, Heidelberg Academy; right-handed pitcher/infielder Ryan Ward, Madison Ridgeland Academy; outfielder Gage Sullivan, Richland; left-handed pitcher Nick Wilson, Terry; right-handed pitcher Dillon Drake, Puckett; third baseman/first baseman Cody Daigle, Parkview Baptist, Addis, La.; outfielder/catcher Deshawn Pittman, Quitman; outfielder Reagan Warren, Newton County; outfielder/first baseman Chance Whitten, South Panola; right-handed pitcher Colby Eaves, Nanih Waiya; and right-handed pitcher/catcher Seth Dement, Hamilton.