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Choctaw Baseball Season Preview
Choctaws confident going into 2023 season.
After Mississippi College won the Gulf South Conference championship in 2018, they have seen significant struggles in recent years. In 2022, the Choctaws recorded a losing record for the second year in a row, going just 14-34 and 8-22 in GSC play. However, Head Coach Jeremy Haworth seems to be extremely confident in his team’s ability to improve on that moving into the 2023 season.
According to Haworth, the Choctaw roster is completely different from last season. With 26 new players added, Haworth claims that the offense has been totally revamped to feature better speed and hitting as well as extreme versatility. Despite the large number of newcomers, the Choctaws have a lot of experience on their roster. Many of these new players were recruited from the junior college ranks, including sophomores Bryce LaRocca and Beau Kirsch, who won a national championship at LSU-Eunice in 2021. Both players are listed as sophomores despite having played two years of junior college ball because of COVID-related rules.
“We have a lot of mature guys, and the benefit of that is [that in] the next three years, you’re going to see something really special with this group,” said Haworth.
Haworth also seems optimistic that the Choctaw pitching staff will be much improved in 2023. Last season, MC had a team ERA of 6.95 – the third highest in the conference – and Jackson Bridges led the team with an ERA of 4.74. This does not compare favorably to their 2018 championship season when the team ERA was 4.51. However, many of the featured arms last season were young players who were getting to see the field for the first time or guys who have since left the program. Haworth expressed great confidence in his starting rotation of Gavid LeBlanc, Cooper Gadman, and Kyle Collet. Although it is Collet’s first season with the Choctaws, both Gadman and LeBlanc gained experience pitching last season and have 14 appearances each with LeBlanc getting eight starts last year as a freshman.
“I feel like this team is a lot more confident than the last team,” said LeBlanc. “We have a lot more transfers like Roc (Bryce LaRocca) and other JuCo guys that bring a lot to the table.”
Even with this confidence, the Choctaws are going to have to be at the top of their game from the very beginning of the season. The Choctaws’ schedule has been rated as the fourth hardest in all of Division II, featuring tough non-conference opponents such as #3 Tampa, #2 Southern-Arkansas, and defending national champions North Greenville. All of this comes along with a GSC schedule that also features several good teams. However, according to Haworth, this is on purpose and has plenty of benefits for his team.
“Everybody thinks I’m crazy for always scheduling games like these, but if we take care of what we can take care of, it’s all going to work out in the end,” said Haworth.
He went on to describe some of the Choctaws’ lofty goals for the season, which include winning 35 games, winning both the GSC regular season and conference tournament titles, and hosting a regional. According to Haworth, this is where the schedule comes into play, as quality non-conference wins are necessary to host a regional or even super-regional. Haworth went on to list even loftier goals like reaching the Division II College World Series and maybe even winning it all.
Whether these goals are met or not, one thing is certain about this Choctaw team: they do not lack confidence. The test of that confidence will start this weekend as they open their season with a home series again Arkansas-Monticello. Game one is on Friday, February 3, at 3:00 PM, followed by a doubleheader on Saturday starting at 1:00 PM.
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