POPLARVILLE — It is only early January but the reigning MACJC State Champions are already hard at work at Dub "Paw Paw" Herring Park.
The Pearl River baseball team opened spring practice Thursday afternoon under a clear blue sky. The Wildcats are already zoning in on getting better and improving as a team.
"This is something we've talked about as a team and that we've waited for," head coach Michael Avalon said. "When we start to countdown to the season and start to see the days go by in January we know we're getting close, everybody starts to get excited and anxious.
"We're ready to go but it's going to be good for us to get out, see some live at-bats and see pitchers face hitters."
With momentum surrounding the program following the Wildcats' third state championship in program history, Avalon made it a point to keep his team focused and fixed in on the upcoming season.
"That's one thing when you realize as a coach, that you're coaching young men, and with that you have to take that into consideration and coach against complacency," Avalon said. "Bottom line is if you have the right people you're going to be fine and we feel that we have the right guys and I feel that they're committed to taking the next step here at Pearl River."
For sophomore pitcher Shemar Page (Raleigh), the mission hasn't changed heading into this season.
"Day 1 when we moved in Coach Avalon made it a point for us to realize that we're going to get everyone's best this season," Page said. "Yeah, it was all great that we won a state championship and had a lot of people sign but this season we still have a lot to prove as a team."
Even with all the talent returning from last season, the Wildcats are expecting to have some new faces step up and contribute right away in 2019.
"We tell all our freshmen that you're one of the 30 guys that we're going to go to war with and our expectations for them are the same as the the sophomores," Avalon said.
While making the transition to college may be viewed as difficult for some, freshman Cade Hodges (Brookhaven; Loyd Star) feels up to the task.
"The pace is faster but I wouldn't say it's difficult," Hodges said. "We've got a lot of great leaders on this and they've helped us fit into our roles here. I love it."
The Wildcats begin the season on February 10th, when they take on Jefferson College at "The Dub."