Expectations high as Barons' field strong group of returning players

By Bill Glass
BPC Public Relations

MOUNT VERNON -- With recent mild weather bringing a hint of spring to the Brewton-Parker College campus, the Barons baseball team is getting fired up for the 2004 season.

Chad Parker, the Barons' third-year coach, is filled with expectations after his 2003 squad finished 26-18, a nine-win improvement from 2002.

The Barons begin their regular-season schedule Tuesday, Feb. 3, with a 5 p.m. game against Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, and their home schedule begins with a 5 p.m. doubleheader Feb. 11 against Claflin University (S.C.) in the Brewton-Parker Invitational.

The perennially tough Georgia-Alabama-Carolina Conference schedule begins Feb. 20 with the first of three games in two days against Southern Wesleyan University (S.C.).

"I was extremely pleased with our 2003 campaign," Parker said. "We had huge wins over ranked teams such as Auburn Montgomery (Ala.), Faulkner (Ala.), North Georgia, Warner Southern (Fla.), Lambuth (Tenn.) and GACC tournament champion Shorter."

With 13 varsity players returning, Parker feels that the Barons can take another step forward with a winning mentality.

"Last year we figured out that we could play and win with the best that the NAIA has to offer" Parker said. "Most of those kids are returning."

With five pitchers returning to the rotation and eight starting field players coming back to the lineup, Parker's ambitions are fully warranted. "This group is extremely dedicated to the mission of our baseball team, excellence on and off the field," he said.

The team currently boasts a grade point average of 3.02, which shows that they take their mission seriously. "This is a group of achievers who are well-rounded individuals," Parker said.

The 2004 Barons will be led on the mound by senior right-hander Brent Kennedy of Baxley, who went 7-0 last season with a 2.96 earned-run average.

Four juniors will provide additional firepower: left-hander Trae Wiggins of Stockbridge and right-handers Ashley Hooks of Swainsboro, Andrew Gernatt of Marietta and Zane Miller of Smyrna.

Several new pitchers, all of whom are right-handers, will join the veterans: sophomore Jarred Morris of Axson, sophomore Matthew Robinson of Fitzgerald, freshman Joseph Bracelin of Canton and freshman Randy Jo Griffin of Guyton.

Senior Dax Mezo of Herrin, Ill., and sophomore Madison Herrin of Waynesville will share the catching duties.

Centerfielder Johnny King of Teutopolis, Ill., is expected to spark the offense again after coming of last year's explosive performance when he posted a .375 batting average that earned him All-Conference honors.

Joining King in the outfield will be junior Jonathan Davis of Savannah, who qualified for the GACC's All-Academic Team, in left field and Griffin will be the primary right-fielder.

Junior Jeremiah Barrow of Eldorado, Ill., has the flexibility to play at either first base, third base or as the designated hitter. Freshman Colby Adkinson of Guyton will fill in at third base and sophomore Justin Sapp of Cochran will help out at first base.

The infield will be anchored by senior shortstop Jason Halstead of Carterville, Ill. Rounding out the infield will be sophomore Justin Dover of Cartersville at third base, senior newcomer Dale Brunett of Mountain Home, Idaho, at second and junior Chris Brown of Bowdon at first base. Hooks will share time at second with Brunett.

"I hope that we can continue to get better every year like we have done and restate our claim as a national contender year in and year out," Parker said.