River baseball, softball open seasons this week

           POPLARVILLE --- Pearl River Community College’s spring sports kick off this week with the Wildcat baseball team hosting Marion Military Institute Thursday and the Lady Wildcat softball squad hosting Alabama Southern on Friday.
            The PRCC-MMI and PRCC-ACSS doubleheaders both start at 4 p.m.
            Fourth-year head coach Josh Hoffpauir’s group finished 41-14 a year ago, which boasted an MACJC South Division championship. But Hoffpauir admits that a repeat effort in 2014 will be an uphill climb.
            Eleven sophomores are gone from last year’s club and 25 recruits on this year’s roster “have never played a college game.
            “We’re replacing all those guys from last season with very good athletes, but they are all inexperienced,” Hoffpauir said. “You expect freshman mistakes early, but I feel like we’ll come around by the middle of the season. There’s a lot of talent in our newcomers.”
            Hoffpauir and his staff saw five weeks of fall workouts of instruction to his first-year players.
            “Even though we had great leadership and a self-motivated group last year, I feel like we’re a more talented team this go around,” he continued.
            Returning are pitchers Jake Brumfield out of Adams Christian Academy in Natchez and Phillip Chandler of Stone County High and outfielder-infielder Nathan Pugh of Starkville High. Joining the pitching corps is Brandon Pennington of Sumrall High who saw extensive mound action in 2012 before sitting out last season due to Tommy John surgery.
            Assistant coaches are former PRCC All-American pitching ace Kyle Lindsey, Jeff Long, and Glennie Thompson.
            Leigh White enters her 12th season as head coach of the Lady Wildcat squad, which finished 26-23 in 2013.
            White said her pitching staff was questionable in the fall, but adds the second-semester addition of Rachel Hickman of Poplarville High was a huge plus.
            Hickman signed with Southern Miss out of high school, but opted to transfer to The River after fall workouts with the Lady Eagles.
            “We recruited Rachel hard, but she decided to sign with a fourt-year school,” White said. “Apparently, that didn’t work out and we’re delighted that she chose to join us.”
            Returning starters from a year ago include starting infielders Heather Boutwell of Oak Grove High, Emily Jackson of Theodore (Ala.) High, Kaci Lantrip of Terry High, and Becky Mitchell of Pearl River Central High, outfielders Micah Davis of Poplarville High and Megan Scronce of Petal High, as well as catcher Kelsea Lewis of Oak Grove High. Courtney Warr of Theodore (Ala.) High saw some mound duty a year ago.
 

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