by James Beasley
Scooter Prince’s name is testimony to his love affair with baseball. His grandfather nicknamed him “Scooter” after the late great Hall of Fame Yankee shortstop, Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto – and he’s been Scooter ever since.
The 33-year-old Brandon native has been given the daunting task of transforming Copiah’s baseball program into one that can compete with other MPSA schools. That’s exactly the goal he has in mind.
“We want to be competitive,” Prince emphasized during a recent practice session conducted in a light drizzle. “If we come out here and give 110% every day and do the small things, the wins will take care of themselves.”
Prince attended University Christian School, where he excelled at shortstop on the baseball team. He played one year at Hinds Community College and later graduated from Jackson State University in 2005. Prince came to Copiah from McAdams High School in Attala County.
The Colonels will compete in District 4-AA against the likes of Simpson Academy, Brookhaven Academy, Prentiss Christian School, and Columbia Academy. From what he’s heard and observed, Prince expects Brookhaven and Simpson to be the teams to beat. “Simpson has some good hitters,” he noted, “and Brookhaven is just good all around. Columbia should be pretty good too.”
According to the coach, CA’s strengths will likely be pitching and defense. Prince is especially pleased with his pitching depth. He expects junior Scotty Reese to be the staff ace, with sophomore Ben Boone and senior Matthew Wright also in the starting rotation. And if sophomore Russ Singleton can fully recover from a broken ankle, the Colonels will also have a southpaw starter.
Prince believes the team’s hitting will get better as the season progresses. “It’s going to take us a while to get in the groove,” he explained. “We’re going to have to learn patience and get something we can drive.”
The team started with light drills in December and has been working out “hot and heavy” since Christmas break. “The weather definitely hasn’t cooperated,” said Prince. “We’ve only been able to work out 6 or 7 times the last 3 weeks.”
Seniors on the team include Wright; outfielder/pitcher Phillip Douglas, who is still recovering from a broken leg last year; and first baseman Dustin Merchant, who is recovering from a leg injury sustained during football season last fall.
Reese, who plays shortstop when not pitching, and pitcher/third baseman Josh Landsdale, who moved here from the Gulf Coast, are the only juniors on the squad.
Sophomores include Boone, who will play infield when not pitching; second baseman Michael Williams; first baseman B.J. Newman; outfielder/pitcher Bryce Guess; outfielder Chris Flannagan; outfielder/infielder/pitcher Lee Brown; catcher Hunter Renfrow; outfielder/third baseman Steven Upton; third baseman/first baseman/pitcher Rob Pyron, and Singleton.
In addition, two freshmen will play on the varsity team: pitcher/outfielder/first baseman Trevor Blocker and catcher Jeremy Newman.
Sixteen players are listed on the junior varsity roster: sophomores Chris Flannagan and Steven Upton; freshmen Trevor Blocker, Dennis Harper, Mitch Little, Dillon McPherson, Jeremy Newman, Taylor Rigby, and T.J. Smith; and 8th-graders Michael Bagley, Jared Ganucheau, Zach Mattingly, Asa Newman, Adam Pitts, Lathan Pyron, and Zach Stafford.
The 7th-grade team will consist of Jacob Ashley, Bryce Berry, Mason Boone, J.P. Campbell, Garrett Chapin, Josh Cook, Andrew Cooper, Logan Simon, Taylor Smith, Will Smith, Douglas Strait, Sam Stevens, Austin Stringer, and Jason Snyder.
Assisting Prince and coaching the 7th-grade team will be longtime Copiah coach Terry Bauer, who has established and maintained a successful girls’ fast pitch softball program for nearly a decade. That’s the same consistency Prince and CA fans are hoping for in baseball.
The Colonels will participate in a preseason tournament this week at Central Holmes Academy before hosting ACCS on February 25 at 4:00 (junior varsity) and 6:00 PM (varsity).