Barons return young experience; look for much improvement on diamond


Chad Parker is hoping a field full of players with returning experience from his first season as the Brewton-Parker College baseball coach will be enough to take the Barons a long way in 2003.


Parker has seven starters and six pitchers who saw plenty of action as freshmen during a 17-34-1 campaign, a record Parker believes the Barons can turn into two wins for every three games this spring.


“We are really excited about the future,” Parker said. “We made people play their best to beat us (in 2002), we just couldn’t win because of our lack of experience.”


The Barons open the season on Thursday, Feb. 6, with a 2 p.m. doubleheader at Albany State University. 


After making a two-game trip to Jacksonville, Fla., on Feb. 8 and playing a single game at Georgia College and State University on Feb. 11, the Barons open their home schedule with the Brewton-Parker Invitational.


They will play two against Claflin University (S.C.) at 5 p.m. on Feb. 12, with a 7 p.m. single game Feb. 13 against Edward Waters College (Fla.) and a 1 p.m. double dip against Lambuth University (Tenn.) that will be played Feb. 15  in Hinesville at Liberty County High School.


With most of the lineup returning joined by some additions who could play key roles, combined with the fact that most of the Georgia-Alabama-Carolina Conference teams face rebuilding seasons, Parker is excited about the Barons’ prospectus.


“Hopefully we can translate that into some wins,” he said.


The Barons’ infield is blessed with returning experience, with first baseman Denson Gleaton of Columbus and second baseman Ricky Nelson of Bonaire in Houston County offering senior leadership. Ashley Hooks, a returning sophomore from Swainsboro, will play third base when he is not pitching.


Gleaton was the only Baron to play in and start all 52 games last season and returns after leading the team in base hits (49), doubles (11), home runs (7), runs batted in (34), walks (20), stolen bases (14) and on-base percentage (.409).


Jason Halstead is a junior transfer from Carterville, Ill., looks to fill the role of shortstop. As a sophomore, Halstead was part of his hometown John A. Logan College’s team that is coached by his father, Jerry, and finished seventh in the NJCAA World Series.


At catcher, Parker said he is comfortable with any of the three top prospects he has. Junior Dax Mezo of Herrin, Ill., is a returnee, while Chris Coker of Good Hope in Walton County is a red-shirt senior transfer from Kennesaw State University and Madison Herrin is a red-shirt freshman from Waynesville in Brantley County.


Two other additions who may join Gleaton at first or fill the designated hitter role include Miles Zachary, a junior who is a graduate of Robert Toombs Christian Academy in Lyons and a transfer from Mercer University. Travis Long, a transfer from Georgia Perimeter College who is a native of Riverdale in Clayton County, is another DH-first base candidate.


Gleaton also will play in right field, where he played last season, with sophomore returnees Chris Brown of Bowdon in Carroll County and Wayne County product Rex Harrison able to play all three positions.


Sophomore Jonathan Davis of Savannah, a graduate of Calvary Baptist Academy, and Erskine College (S.C.) transfer Eric Prevatt, a junior from Anderson, S.C., also will see outfield time.


Other utility infield prospects include Dale Brunett, a junior from Mountain Home, Idaho, who is a medical red-shirt from last year; and Jeremiah Barrow, a sophomore from Eldorado, Ill., who is a transfer from Southeastern Illinois College.


Sophomore David Bruce of Kingsland in Camden County is another utility infielder, while Josh Hendricks, a sophomore from Auburn, Ala., also may fill in at third when Hooks takes the mound.


Justin Dover, a freshman from Cartersville in Bartow County, could fill in at either second or third base.


Parker also has four returning pitchers who started conference games last season.


Former Appling County standout right-hander Brent Kennedy of Baxley is the only junior on the pitching corps, with left-handers Craig Trent of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Trae Wiggins of Stockbridge in Henry County returning as sophomores and right-hander Hooks another returning sophomore.


Parker also adds two red-shirt freshmen in left-hander Josh Dutto of Chattanooga, Tenn., and right-hander Andrew Gernatt of Marietta. Relief pitching candidates include Zane Miller, a sophomore right-hander from Smyrna in Cobb County, and Brandon Whitener, a freshman right-hander from Calhoun in Gordon County.


The Barons’ GACC schedule begins Feb. 21 and 22 at Shorter College in Rome, with their first home three-game date set for Feb. 28 and March 1 against North Georgia College and State University.


“We were 8-16 in the conference and we think we can flip-flop our records from last year and maybe do more,” Parker said. “Losing only four guys from last year, I am really excited about the future, not only this year but for future years.”