POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Almost immediately after returning to Poplarville from their trip to Enid, Oklahoma, for the NJCAA Division II World Series the Wildcats began looking ahead to 2020. Now Pearl River is just over a week away from Opening Day and their focus has narrowed to making the most of their season debut.
"We're just excited to get back out there and prepare for Opening Day. This is an exciting time of year for us," Pearl River coach Michael Avalon said. "Our guys are probably getting tired of practicing and seeing each other and would like to see someone wearing a different color jersey.
"With that being said there's still a lot of work to be done."
The rosters change but expectations never do when it comes to Pearl River baseball. As the Wildcats install bunt defenses and fine tune strategies, PRCC's recent success — 28 wins three years ago, 2018 MACJC Champs and last year's special run — are not lost on this year's group.
"Last year's group did a really good job of continuing to raise the bar for us. When that happens it also raises the expectations, so now these guys have a chance as a 2020 team to continue to try and raise that bar and take the next step. That's something we talk to them about, that the expectations are going to be there. The only way to handle expectations are through preparations.
"We have a tough schedule upcoming and obviously our conference and our region every year is as tough as it gets. The most important thing right now is that we prepare for that."
Heading down the home stretch, Avalon said a handful of players have really impressed him.
"We have had several guys who have had really good early springs. Bryson Ware continues to do what he did in the fall. Michael Wein is swinging the bat really well. Graham Crawford. Britt McKay. There have been several guys. Nick Skaggs has had a really good early spring for us and brings some different things to the lineup," he said. "On the mound, Kole Alford continues to be a guy for us out of the pen. We have several guys who can be in the rotation. That's going to be one of the biggest questions — who are going to be those four guys? One of the good things is we have some options there so we'll wait for the guys to separate themselves."
The Wildcats open the season on Sunday, Feb. 16 against Bevill State at Dub Herring Park. First pitch for the doubleheader is set for 1 p.m.
The Wildcats won't open MACJC play until Saturday, March 14 at Northeast and will play their first home conference doubleheader against Copiah-Lincoln on Wednesday, April 18.
Pearl River baseball will host its annual first-pitch banquet at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Olivia Bender Cafeteria on PRCC's Poplarville campus. This year's keynote speaker will be Southeastern Louisiana coach Matt Riser.
The Picayune native has continued Southeastern Louisiana's tradition of excellence and in six seasons leading the Lions he has amassed 227 wins.
Tickets for the banquet are $25 for adults, $12 for children 7-12 and free for anyone 6 and under.
To RSVP for the banquet, email Avalon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOW TO TUNE IN
All home events are broadcast on PRCCAthletics.com and PRCCMedia.com. Anyone who has an Amazon Fire or Roku device can stream PRCC broadcasts by downloading the "Pearl River CC" Channel from the app store. Home games and select road contests can also be heard on WRJW 1320 AM, WRJWRadio.com or by downloading the WRJW app.