By James Beasley
Joey Hydrick is no stranger to Copiah Academy athletics. The 34-year-old Crystal Springs native graduated from Copiah Academy in 1996 and went on to play football and baseball at Copiah-Lincoln Community College – and then football at Mississippi State University. Now he’s back at CA and about to begin his first season as the varsity head baseball coach.
Hydrick has paid his dues. He spent the past 10 seasons at Jackson Prep as an assistant football and assistant baseball coach. This will be his first opportunity as a head coach on the varsity level. “It was a good change for me,” he said in a recent interview. “Coach Cline approached me, and I’ve enjoyed it so far.”
The rookie head coach knows he has a big challenge before him. For the past three years, Copiah has played for the state championship, winning it once. “There is some pressure on me and on us as a team,” he admitted. “With CA’s recent success, there is definitely a bulls-eye on our back, but it’s a good challenge. We want to continue to build on that success through hard work and dedication.”
Duplicating that feat this year will be a difficult task. The team has only four returning players with varsity experience: junior Doug Strait and seniors Peyton Whitehead, Latham Pyron, and Michael Bagley.
“We have a lot of positions wide open,” Hydrick said. “It’s been fun to watch the players fight for those spots. I think our strength is going to be our pitching depth. We don’t have one dominating pitcher, but we have a lot of pitchers who can throw strikes.”
The coach sees southpaw Michael Bagley as his #1 starter. He says there’s a good possibility that Pyron and Whitehead will also start. Others slated to see mound duty include senior Asa Newman, junior Josh Cook, and sophomores Josh Merchant and Grant Anderson. “Merchant has thrown well in preseason,” he noted.
Hydrick’s biggest concern is the team’s inexperience at the varsity level. “They (the players) have done a good job and worked hard,” he said. “We did some good things in a practice game with Amite at Brookhaven.”
The Colonels will compete against East Rankin, Hillcrest Christian, and Starkville in Division II AAA. Division I foes will include Jackson Prep, Parklane, and Presbyterian Christian.
The coach declined to name starters. “There’s no set lineup,” he explained. “We’ll use the early part of the season to get some experience and compete for playing time.”
Helping Hydrick with the varsity will be longtime assistant Terry Bauer and CA alumnus Ben Boone, who will also coach the 9th-grade team. Girls’ basketball coach Ben Gardner will serve as head coach of the 8th-graders, while Wayne Henry will head up the 7th-graders.
Presently there are 26 players listed on the varsity and junior varsity teams. Unlike past years, the junior varsity will consist of all 10th and 11th-graders; they will also be listed on the varsity team. In addition, there will be a 7th-grade team made up of 18 players, an 8th-grade team with 18 players, and a 9th-grade team with 14 players — for a total of 71 players in the Copiah Academy baseball program.
Additional varsity players other than those named above include juniors Zach Mattingly, Devin Faulkner, Jacob Ashley, Logan Simon, Taylor Smith, John Parker Campbell, Austin Stringer, Dillon Martin, and Garrett Chapin; and sophomores Justin Morris, Tyler Dear, Mason Ferrell, Cade Richardson, Zane Frazier, Corey McKinney, Trevor Cooper, Clayton Williams, and Trent Boone.
The Colonels were scheduled to open the season this past Monday at MRA in Madison. Their first home game is set for this Friday, February 24, in Gallman. The JV game will begin at 4:30 PM, with the varsity game against MRA scheduled to follow at 6:00 PM.