Early Success Has the Pioneers Eager to Prove Themselves in Conference Play

Early Success Has the Pioneers Eager to Prove Themselves in Conference Play

Vol State (10-3) has gotten off to a great start to 2017.  The Pioneers feel like they are ready to take the next step and battle to stay atop one of the top conferences in the entire NJCAA ranks.  We had a chance to sit down and speak with Coach Hunt about that subject; "We certainly need to clean some things up offensively and defensively if we want to compete for a conference title.  We absolutely cannot lose focus, no matter what inning, what score or what count.  This conference is too talented to get in a comfort zone and not keep intensity and focus."

The starters for Vol State have been one of the strong points that have gotten them off to such a hot start.  They will be going into the TCCAA opener without sophomore James Hatcher.  Hatcher has been great so far going deep into games his first two starts but had to come out of the game vs Parkland last weekend in the 3rd inning with an injury.  The good news is the schedule has allowed for the Neers to have a four-man rotation the last few weeks which helps with filling the three-man rotation needed for conference weekends.  Drew Hall, Jakob Cole, and Ben Wiley all boast unblemished win/loss records and ERAs under 2.00.  The tough test for the starters will certainly come this weekend; Columbia State will be bringing 9 guys with batting averages over .300 including a freshman, Wil Dalton, who is currently hitting over .400 with 6 HRs. 
 
Columbia State (7-9) will come in ready.  Under Coach Corn, they have been known for playing very hard and fundamentally sound.  The Chargers have played a very tough schedule to start the 2017 campaign, most notably a series vs a top 10 team in Chipola and a top 15 team in Wabash Valley. 


Vol State comes into this series with a few guys that are banged up, starting first baseman Richard Constantine and catcher Colin Hopkins.  Constantine and Hopkins are both game time decisions this weekend but it has given a few guys a chance to get a few more at bats and experience over the last week.  That is one thing Coach Hunt has stressed to his roster, "You do not know when your time is going to come, sometimes, but you better be ready when it does.  The depth of the roster is key when you have 50+ games in four months; that is one thing I want kids that are here and kids that are thinking about coming here to know.  We need to be two and three guys deep and sometimes even more than that at each position.  We will do our job getting them a chance to continue playing baseball after they leave here regardless of how many innings they log in games while they are here.  If they have the work ethic to get better on a day in day out basis, I can guarantee we will develop and prepare them to get to the next level.  I do not expect our productivity and how we play the game to decline no matter what guys I write in the lineup that day."  The Pioneers offense has been led by sophomore Alex Lyon who is hitting .465.  The Neers may not have the gap and power numbers that some conference foes boast so far but they have been good, for the most part, at executing good at bats when they need them.  "The numbers are shiny and certainly help in production but the key is good at bats and execution when we need it most," says Coach Hunt.   He added, "We just have to score more runs than they do that day to get what we want out of the day."  Vol State will need their defense to stay in games against the power offenses that they will see the first three weeks of conference play.  Coach Hunt also spoke about the defense, "We have to be better at making the routine plays.  Early on, our lack of focus and intensity has led to some unearned runs that we can't allow in conference play to have successful weekends.  Our guys know that and I think they will come ready to compete this weekend."

Friday
Game 1 - Columbia State vs Vol State - 2:00 pm
 
Saturday
Game 2 - Columbia State vs Vol State - 12:00 pm
Game 3 - Columbia State vs Vol State - 3:00 pm