Warhawks begin season with high expectations
Published 8:07 am Sunday, February 10, 2002
Special to The Advance
JDCC head baseball coach Keith Griffin is pleased with where his team's beginning.
The Warhawks, who finished the season 42-18 last year, are ranked No. 1 in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) pre-season polls.
"Today, Feb. 8, I wouldn't trade my guys for anybody else's," he said.
But it's where the team ends that will really matter.
"On May 8, that may be a different story, " Griffin said.
The Warhawks open their 2002 seasons today, Sunday, Feb. 10, against Faulkner University's JV team in Montgomery.
"The JV team means different things to different people," Griffin said. "Alabama Southern opened against West Alabama's JV team the other day and they played seniors and juniors. If it's a true JV team n their freshmen and sophomores against our freshmen and sophomores n we'll be OK."
Griffin said the Warhawks need to see big years from returning sophomore pitchers Jeff Angst, Josh Bailey, Karl Huch, and Drew Hunt. He's also counting on sophomores Josh D'Arensbourg (first base), Pat Cottrell (shortstop), Erik Morrison (catcher), and Brandon Mosley (second base).
"All of these guys should have good sophomore years," Griffin said. "They've been through our program and collegiate competition, and should know what we expect of them."
But the Warhawks have 21 freshmen on a 29-man roster.
"These guys have gotta learn the system," Griffin said. "We go through this every year. When they really come together and get it, is when we'll know how we're really going to do."
And while the high ranking in pre-season polls is nice, it's not indicative of this year's season, Griffin said.
"The pre-season poll says we've had a good program the five years we've been here and people across the country recognize that," Griffin said. "It's based on the program we've had and the successes we've had. They know we've got a good recruiting class and have the potential to do great things."
The Warhawks have five to six weeks of pre-conference play. They're scheduled to play their first conference game on March 19 against Alabama Southern.
"If we can post double-digit wins in our first 18 games, we'll be OK," Griffin said.
The Warhawks have won the conference title three times in the past five years, and won the state championship and a national play-off berth twice. In 1998, they captured the national title.
"We're in a really good league, so it means something to win the conference," Griffin said. "Conference play boils down to 24 games in about six weeks. If we can be the best team in that period of time, we can win it again."
In '98, the Warhawks went into the state tournament as the No. 1 seed and won it. In '99, they were the fourth seed. In 2000, they were seeded third and won the state tournament. Last year, they were the first seed, and finished second.
"It all boils down to who plays the best ball that weekend," he said.
Last year's team, Griffin said, played up to its potential as well as any he's ever coached. But the Warhawks lost 12 of those freshmen players to Division I baseball this year.
"That's a compliment," he said, "but ethically, it shouldn't happen."
Consequently, Griffin and his Warhawks need big contributions from this year's freshman class.
"Pitching, we'll see Jeramy Simmons, Craig Phillips, Eric Hutcheson, Nathan Moore, Guy Skipper, Eli Hims and Bo Newton," he said. "If they throw well for us, we'll do well."
The Warhawks will be at home on Tuesday against Gulf Coast Community College of Panama City. The double-header begins at noon.
"They're a very, very talented team," Griffin said. "They're one of the better teams in the Panhandle conference in Florida. But if we do what we're supposed to do, we should be OK."