HL: No. 8 Pearl River ready to open season against Jefferson College
(NOTE: This is the final article in a three-part series previewing the Wildcats' 2019 season.)
POPLARVILLE, Miss.— The newly renovated Dub Herring Park will come to life Sunday when No. 8 Pearl River hosts Jefferson College on Opening Day.
The doubleheader is set for a noon start.
"You hear a lot of coaches say your guys are ready to play somebody else; I think we're definitely to that point," PRCC coach Michael Avalon said. "We're excited for Opening Day and looking forward to it."
As the reigning MACJC champs, the Wildcats understand they won't be able to fly under the radar in 2019. The Diamond Wildcats have been front and center — and vocal supporters — during the unprecedented run for PRCC's men's basketball team.
"You can learn a lot from our men's basketball team and how they handle being a marked and targeted team — as we may be," Avalon said. "You have to show up every day with the understanding you're going to get the other person's best shot. That's what the expectation is. If someone else's expectation is more than what you expect of yourself, you're going to fail.
"Our expectation will always remain high. We will always have high goals. We just have to believe in them and work together to achieve them."
Avalon has largely been impressed with the Wildcats' play during preseason practice — with the caveat they'll need to bring their best starting Sunday.
"As a coach you want to play as well as you can opening day. We know we're not going to be perfect, but perfection is our goal. That's what we have worked for up until this point," Avalon said. "Now we get to go out and see where we are."
Jefferson College is a powerhouse Division I program that posted 54 wins and earned a trip to the NJCAA World Series a year ago.
This year's Vikings boast six of junior college baseball's top 300 prospects, according to Perfect Game: RHPs Jason Rackers, Riley Boyd, Austin Hicks and Austin Cheeley; SS Grant Wood; and OF Matt Turino. Rackers and Turino are Tennessee commits, Boyd is committed to Western Kentucky, and Hicks and Cheeley are pledged to Middle Tennessee.
"One thing we want to do is play the best. That's something early on as a coach you make a decision of who you'll play," Avalon said. "We're excited and understand the caliber of team we're playing. They're highly ranked and very talented so it will be a good test for our guys."
Freshman infielder Dexter Jordan (Hattiesburg) was PRCC's representative on Perfect Game's list at No. 37.
Pearl River legend Braxton Lee will throw out the ceremonial first pitch Sunday. The Picayune native played at PRCC in 2012 and '13 before transferring to Ole Miss. He was later drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays, made his Major League debut with the Miami Marlins last season and is currently in the New York Mets organization.
HOW TO TUNE IN
PRCC will officially kick off the season Sunday, but the Wildcats will get a jump start on their Opening Day celebration Saturday with the 3rd Annual First-Pitch Dinner. PRCC alumnus and motivational speaker Kendale Lumpkins is the guest speaker. The event is open to the public. Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for children.