LYNCHBURG — Starting pitcher Matt Sharp and reliever Hayden Bailey, sophomore hurlers who played their high school baseball at Marshall County in Lewisburg, are the headliners on a pitching staff that will be counted on to carry the weight early when the Motlow Bucks open the 2015 baseball season on Thursday, Feb. 5, against Wallace State in Hanceville, Ala.
Sharp posted a 10-4 record as a freshman last season with a 3.52 earned run average in 84.1 innings. His 10 wins is tied for sixth all-time for most wins by a Motlow pitcher in a season, and his innings pitched is sixth on the all-time list. Sharp, a right-hander, is the only returning starter for the Bucks.
Bailey, who also throws from the right side, set the all-time Motlow single-season record with nine saves last year, shattering the previous mark of six, and won four games in relief without a loss. His 2.35 earned run average was second on the team.
Sharp and Bailey lead a class of seven returning sophomores for Head Coach Dan McShea, set to enter his ninth season at the helm of a Motlow program that enjoyed its best season in 15 years in 2014, finishing runner-up in the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association (TCCAA) tournament and advancing to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) East Central District tournament.
However, many of the key ingredients that helped the Bucks to a 40-24 record last year have graduated, and McShea will need a large, talented freshman class, along with the returning sophomores and a couple of transfers, to step up and produce if Motlow is to once again challenge for the TCCAA title.
Also returning for their second season in Lynchburg, along with Sharp and Bailey, are Cole Thiede, a utility player from Franklin who hit .277 last year, and outfielder Nick Chambers from Chattanooga, who hit .252 in 2014 and is the top returning run producer with 15 RBIs and 31 runs scored.
Additional returnees who will be counted to play increased, more-productive roles this season, are Darren White from Meridianville, Ala., Patrick Poteet from Maryville and Cody Blackburn from Lewisburg.
The roster includes three redshirt freshmen, two of which transferred to Motlow this season. Catcher Josh Bankston, from Harrison, Tenn., attended Motlow last season but sat out due to injury. Dylan Stark and Spencer Mossburg are both first-year transfers who will be counted on heavily to fill the void left by graduation from last year’s squad.
A glance at the 13 first-year freshmen on the roster, many of whom will be thrown into the college baseball fire quickly, shows seven from Tennessee and six from beyond the volunteer state’s borders.
Among the freshman from Tennessee are Dewayne Parsons from Winchester, Conner Boyd from Smyrna, Jeremy Thurman from Brentwood, Charter Helton from Hohenwald, Aaron Hobbs from Lewisburg, Taylor Paschal from Unionville, and Nate Newman from Munford.
Freshmen who have crossed state lines to play for McShea and the Bucks are Chris Fly from Douglasville, Ga.; Deonte Parker from Meridianville, Ala.; Thomas Davidson from Elkmont, Ala.; Casey Wehrhahn from Destin, Fla.; Hunter Nance from Newark, Ohio; and Brody Thomasson from Eufaula, Ala.
The Bucks will play their first home game on Monday, Feb. 9, when the Martin Methodist College JV squad visits for a noon doubleheader. The first TCCAA conference contest is Friday, Feb. 27, with Jackson State coming to the Driver Complex to begin a three-game series at 1 p.m.
After a 56-game regular season, the Bucks will join the other nine TCCAA baseball teams for the TCCAA/Region VII Tournament in Chattanooga, scheduled from April 29-May 3. The winner and runner-up will advance to the NJCAA East Central District tournament.
All Motlow home games are played at the Driver Baseball Complex on the Moore County campus. Admission is free to all games.