LYNCHBURG — The Motlow Bucks will begin their seventh baseball season under head coach Dan McShea when they travel to Birmingham, Ala., to face Lawson State in a doubleheader at noon on Saturday, Feb. 2.
“My expectations are very high for this baseball team,” said McShea. “We have the best pitching staff I have had here in my seven seasons along with a very diverse offense. Our infield is excellent up the middle and we have a number of young men who can run the bases well and drive in runs.”
Coach McShea has a solid group of sophomores returning and has added a talented recruiting class. His most significant personnel challenge will be replacing Tyler Murphy, who became only the second player in Motlow history to be named a first-team All-American. Murphy will play this season for Bethel University.
“You don’t replace a player like Tyler Murphy,” McShea continued. “He is probably the best hitter I have ever coached on any level. I expect him to play professionally and to play well if he can stay healthy.”
The loss of Murphy is not the only hole that McShea and the Bucks will have to fill during the coming season. In fact, Motlow lost 22 players from last year’s team, with all but one of them on other team’s rosters this year; most at four-year universities. With change though comes new opportunity, and McShea sees a lot of talent when he scans his roster.
“We brought in several sophomore transfers that will play key roles for us,” said McShea. “Most of them have had a lot of playing time on the college level. Plus we bring back our two top relievers in Logan Dietz and Tanner Moulder. Both know how to throw strikes and they compete when we are in trouble.
“The strength of the 2013 Motlow Bucks will be our pitching staff,” he added. “We have some of the best arms we have had here in several years and a majority of them are freshmen. We will also be much more athletic on defense.”
A high turnover rate in personnel is common on the community college level. With four-year institutions offering opportunities to the best players each year, the annual challenge for all coaches is to find the right mix between freshmen, transfers, and returning sophomores.
“For the first time since I’ve been here, our team elected a freshman as captain,” McShea added. “Chris Adams from Madison Academy in Huntsville will fill that role. He is great in the classroom and he works as hard as, or harder, than anyone else on the team. He is a very good leader by example.
“We also have some veterans that have been around college baseball a little longer and are much more vocal in their leadership style. They push and encourage each other and they have formed a real connection during these past few months.”
The Bucks will play at Calhoun Community College in Decatur, Ala., on Tuesday, Feb. 5, before hosting Lakeland, Ill., for a doubleheader at home at noon on Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Driver Baseball Complex.
Conference play begins in the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association (TCCAA) with a trip to Memphis for a three-game series against Southwest Tennessee on the first weekend in March. The regular season will end April 27 with a doubleheader at Volunteer State in Gallatin.
The Bucks are coming off a 34-26 season that saw them advance in the TCCAA/Region VII Tournament with wins over Chattanooga State and Cleveland State before being eliminated by eventual state champion Walters State. This year’s conference tournament begins May 3 in Gallatin.
“Inexperience and a lack of depth are probably two areas that concern me,” McShea concluded. “Freshmen come into a college program because they were successful in high school, and sometimes they struggle to adjust to the high level of competition. We hope to teach them to stay positive when adversity hits and be dominant at what they do.”
Area players on the Motlow roster include Franklin County cousins Chevis Hoover, a freshman, and redshirt freshman John Tiedemann. They are the fifth and sixth members of the Morris family to play or coach for the Bucks, joining Ricky, Bryan, Josh and Steven.
—By SCOTT SHASTEEN, Motlow College