The 2020 fall practice session recently came to an end for the Mississippi Delta Community College baseball program, and with that, new head coach Luke Stanley was able to break down how the Trojans looked during the six weeks of work.
Stanley, who replaced current MDCC athletic director Dan Rives over the summer, left his first fall cautiously optimistic after seeing his team in action for an extended period. He recently sat down with Rives, who doubles as the college’s sports information director, for a Q&A session.
What were your overall impressions of how the fall went?
I thought it went well, as a number of younger guys got the opportunity to see a lot. We are pretty freshmen heavy, but that’s not always a bad thing. The newcomers were able to grow and see that the game is much faster by playing in our fall games. They also realized that this is a different animal and league than what they probably expected. Our second-year guys have really helped and have done a good job of helping our freshmen to stay focused. The mental growth aspect of trying to get used to this league has probably been the biggest adjustment they have had to make.
How were you guys able to adjust to the COVID climate?
Overall, it went as smooth as it could possibly go. Our guys were very steady on doing things the right way and sticking with the regulations and protocols, and they held each other accountable on not going astray. Our sophomores spoke up about a lot of different things going on, and letting everyone know that we can’t do certain things because we can’t afford to have anyone out or miss any time.
Who stood out for you on the mound, and were there any surprises there?
We have a number of returners that will do some really good things for us in our bullpen. There are also a number of freshmen that will be fighting for our starting roles. Coach (Tyler) Milligan has done a very good job of developing all of them as pitchers instead of being just throwers, in terms of working on different locations and being able to control that. Some of the ones that stood out include Nicholas Bedsole (Shreveport, La.), Landon Comer (Wellington, Ala.), Haden Luke (Vicksburg), Josh Parker (Byram) and Luke Smith (Picayune), who have all really stood out in scrimmages and in their outings versus outside competition.
Who stood out positionally for you, and were there any surprises there?
We don’t have a ton of returners offensively, with the season being cut short a year ago due to COVID-19. With that being said, Carson Chapman (Flowood), Riggs Easterling (Shreveport, La.) and Eli Stallings (Cleveland) each did a really nice job at the plate for us. Gage Little (Grenada) had a great fall and really offers us a strong left-handed bat that can help anchor our lineup. Julian Murphy (Ridgeland) has also made a lot of positive jumps with his bat as well. In terms of our first-year guys, Chad Stockstill (Picayune), Chad Dudenhefer (Picayune) and Davon Mims (Vicksburg) have all done a nice job of stepping in and adjusting to how things are at this level. In addition to them, we have a lot of freshmen that will be battling for starting roles because they are good hitters and have shown the ability to step in and do the job.
Where do you go from here until January, when spring practice rolls back around?
We will have our annual Trojan Games (off-season strength & conditioning competition) coming up, and we want to keep our competitions as lively as possible. This will be the longest winter break that we’ve ever been a part of, so this will be a lot like the summertime, in terms of putting them on a workout program and keeping them as involved as we can. From a team standpoint, we want to maintain what we’ve built to this point and make sure our guys don’t lose it over the break. From a staff standpoint, our main tasks are facility improvements and recruiting, as we want to add some things here and there in terms of facility additions and personnel.
What are you looking for out of your team once the spring semester and the season is upon you?
Once they get back in January, we have a lot to review to get them locked back in. A big focus while be on fundamentals, as well as going over our play calls and review sessions to go over things that we’ve covered already. We will also focus on getting in as many repetitions as possible and get back into game mode.
How did your first fall go as a head coach, and what were some things that you learned that you may not have known prior to?
There were a number of different things I learned on the backside, like ordering equipment, paperwork, what vendors do we use, etc. On the coaching side of things, it hasn’t been that different though. It has been a focus of mine in trying to balance a relationship with the players, while also being disciplined, stern and holding them accountable. One of our other focuses is on helping our players grow as men, just as much or more than them developing as baseball players.
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