POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Pearl River head baseball coach Michael Avalon has announced the hires of Slater Lott, Brandon "Penny" Pennington and Max Bartlett as his assistant coaches for the 2020 season. The trio replaces Anthony Izzio and Drew LaBounty, who were recently hired by Tulane and Arkansas State respectively; as well as Sam Roberson, who previously took a job in Florida.
"I think one of the most important things I do is hiring coaches," Avalon said. "That obviously has a tremendous effect on the success of our program. These hires have been extremely critical to continue our success as we move forward."
The process of hiring new coaches is never easy but Avalon felt that these three coaches met his criteria.
"Anytime you lose members of your staff there automatically comes questions of uncertainty," Avalon said. "I feel very blessed with these three young men joining our staff that we can answer those questions. We are able to let everyone know that our program continues to be on a firm foundation with Slater, Brandon and Max helping us lead this program.
"We have all the right pieces to make sure that we prepare the players no matter the position and I think that gives us an advantage as we continue to recruit and continue to compete for a national championship."
Lott will be the recruiting coordinator and hitting coach for the Wildcats.
"I've known Slater for several years," Avalon said. "He's been an up and coming coach around Mississippi for a while. I think it's the perfect time for him to come into our program. I'm excited about his work ethic and his desire to succeed."
Lott comes to PRCC after one season at Delta State University. While at DSU, Lott served as the hitting coach, helping lead the Statesmen to a Gulf South Conference Tournament title and also a NCAA DII South II Regional title. Tied DSU record and tied for lead amongst conference teams in team overall fielding percentage with a .967 percentage.
Before arriving at Delta State, Lott coached at Meridian Community College from 2014 to 2018, while earning his Bachelor's Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in 2016 from Mississippi State University.
In 2018 Meridian led the NJCAA in team batting average during the regular season with a .368 batting average.
Lott also attended East Central and Meridian as a student, earning his Associates Degree from Meridian in 2014.
Lott graduated from Clarkdale High School in 2012, where he also played baseball.
"Obviously I'm excited to be here," Lott said. "The winning culture stuck out here to me. This is great chance for me to work with Coach Avalon and Coach Pennington whose been a close friend of mine for a while."
A Wildcat alum, Pennington has been hired as the pitching coach.
"Brandon's a guy that we're excited to welcome back to The River," Avalon said. "One of the things that excited me about Brandon was his desire to be back home. He has a tremendous passion for Pearl River baseball. We're excited that he's going to get to work with our pitchers."
Prior to returning to Poplarville, Pennington served as the pitching coach for Paris Junior College in 2019. Pennington helped the Dragons obtain the lowest ERA the program had in six seasons with a 5.91 ERA.
Before leaving the MACJC, Pennington was an assistant coach at Meridian Community College in 2018.
He helped the Eagles to a 39-13 record on the year. Meridian came up just short of a World Series berth, losing to eventual national champion LSU Eunice in the Regional Championship. Four of the five Eagle sophomore pitchers signed division one scholarships. They also had three draft picks.
Prior to coaching at Meridian, Pennington served as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, the University of West Alabama, in 2017. In 2017 the Tigers finished as the Gulf South runner-up. During his time as graduate assistant at UWA, Pennington helped with day-to-day duties, assisted in running the pitching staff, and recruiting.
Pennington played at West Alabama for two seasons dominating on the mound and earning a Bachelor's Degree in Sports Management.
In 2015 Pennington finished fourth in the country in ERA with a 2.84.
Before signing with UWA, Pennington played for the Wildcats from 2012 to 2014.
Pennington graduated from Sumrall High School in 2011, where he was a standout pitcher helping the Bobcats win a 3A State Championship his senior season.
"I know what the tradition here is about," Pennington said. "This is where I've wanted to be for a while. It was a pretty easy decision for me."
Bartlett will serve as a volunteer assistant and camp coordinator.
"We're very lucky to have Max join us after an illustrious playing career. We're excited to have him work with our catchers, help with infielders and assist with hitters. Max grew up in a baseball family," Avalon said of Bartlett, whose dad, Chuck, has scouted for the Cleveland Indians and is currently scouting for the New York Yankees. "His knowledge of the game of baseball will be huge in helping our players develop."
Prior to coming to The River, Bartlett had a brief stint as an assistant coach at Starkville Academy in 2019. He also coached for the San Francisco Seals in the California Collegiate League in '19.
Before becoming a coach, Bartlett spent the last two years playing shortstop and second base in the Kansas City Royals organization.
Bartlett played shortstop for University of Tennessee in 2016 and 2017 holding a batting average of .280 his senior year.
Bartlett earned a Bachelor's Degree in Communications at UT.
Before signing to play in the SEC, Bartlett played two years at Gulf Coast State College where he hit .280 as a freshman and .295 as a sophomore.
Bartlett graduated from Starkville High School in 2013 where he was a standout baseball player. Bartlett was a 36th round selection of the Cleveland Indians in 2014 but ultimately opted to play college ball.
"I'm really excited to be here," Bartlett said. "This is a great program that develops players and I'm happy to be a part of that now."