With a slew of returning starters and a great recruiting class making its way onto campus, the fall has been a busy one for South Arkansas Community College baseball coach Cannon Lester.
The Stars finished training two weeks early for the World Championships, and Leicester said he was pleased with what he saw.
“I think for the most part they went really well,” Lester said. “We had a lot of comebacks, so we kind of had a better understanding of what those guys had in store. We had a bunch of guys who did some good things as well. We hit the long ball a lot this fall, so that was good.
“That was something we really tried to add to. Deep-wise, we addressed that as well. We saw a lot of turns, got a lot of AB. It was a good fall overall.”
In their debut season, the Stars hit 40 home runs as a team, but if falls are any indication, SouthArk could be more of a threat in this category next year.
“We hope you translate,” Lester said. “We’ve had a lot of guys hit a lot of home runs this fall. I think we hit more home runs this fall than we did the whole spring in probably half of the games. It just kind of really started with coaching us.
“Coach (Hayden) Dow had the guys do a lot of good things in the weight room like throw middle balls, just get their bodies to move faster. We really carried that from practice to the field. I thought they did a good job of going from practice to the game.”
Elijah Nichols, who hit . 268 with four home runs and 25 RBI last year, was picked by Lester for his performance this fall.
“Our offensive player was probably Elijah Nichols,” Lester said. “He was unbelievable this fall. I think he ended up with 13 homers and more doubles as well, so he stuck around the most. Trace Shoup was pitching well. He led our team in quality at-bats and also had eight home runs.” He had a great fall.
“Roc Hawthorne will always hit, Ryan Riggs will always hit and we’ve got a freshman who’s also another catcher in Jacob Ambiz that I thought of all the freshmen, he’s swung by far the best. We’ve had a lot of guys swing well this fall.”
On the mound, Kade Lively, who led the team in hits and was second on the team in innings pitched last year, had an impressive fall that culminated in his verbal commitment to Arkansas Tech.
“It was probably our best fall than anybody,” Lester said. “He’s probably going to be at the top of our cycle.”
Ethan Ritchie, a freshman from Ponky, Los Angeles, threw the ball well in the fall.
“He’ll probably be one of our guys for the weekend,” Lester said. “He runs it there and he throws really hard. He really leads the area with three different pitches. I think his bullish side probably surprised us.”
Louisiana-Monroe native Christian Clayson was one of several pitchers Lester said he had a good fall.
“He was really dominant at times,” Lester said. “I think he’ll probably start in the weekend rotation for us. Hunter Royal ran to 93 this fall. He’s got a really good ball, and when he’s in the area, he’s really good. Jackson Regan, a side player we fell behind last year and then let go, I thought he He delivered our best painkillers.”
The transition to college can be tough for freshmen, but Lester said two others have joined Ritchie in doing well this fall.
“I think Cady Pearl has thrown the ball really well at times and Jack Moody has thrown the ball really well this fall,” Lester said. “I thought they threw the ball really well, especially for the freshmen who have all the learning curves that come with that. I thought they made great strides.”
Walking was a problem for the Stars last year, and Lester said that while there has been improvement, old habits sometimes reappear.
“We’ve done that sometimes and sometimes we’ve gone back to the old ways,” Lester said. “I think we had our seventh player go over 90, so ball-wise, we’re really good, but I’d be lying if I said we didn’t need to control the ball better.
“I got better, but we still have a ways to go. I think that is an ongoing thing that we will continue to fight.
“I think when guys start to understand their bodies a little bit and get a little bit more comfortable, we have a lot of comebacks, so once they get into the game they start to slow it down enough to be able to control their mistakes a little bit better and really understand what they need to do to get back in.” strike zone.
“We still have a long way to go on that, but we’re really starting to improve a lot in terms of how many bugs we miss and how much we miss.”
In the World Series, Leicester said Ryan Riggs was the best offensive player, while rookie John Demsher was the best shooter thanks to five scoreless innings in the deciding game.
Players also coach teams with Clay Burrows and Clayson on one side with the vibrant and ex-Eldorado Brennan Jones on the other as voted by the players. Lester said Rock Hawthorn was also voted in as coach, but could not participate due to being ill the week of the series.
“We let them choose the teams and it’s interesting to see who they chose,” Lester said. “We threw lineups in the fall, and they saw what we threw out there. We told them, ‘Hey, that’s your deal. If you think someone else needs to go to a different place or in a different role, it’s your team.'”
“It’s always interesting to know what they think of their teammates, who they trust and who they’re sick of. It’s a fun time and we just sit back and rule and let them go.”