Photo by Derrick Mahone
Mundy’s Mill coach Patrick Smith will lead his team into a new region as they hope to make another run in the playoffs.
JONESBORO — Going into its first Region 4-AAAA game on Friday, Mundy’s Mill coach Patrick Smith had hoped his team would have a couple games under its belt.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn’t cooperate as rain forced the postponement of the team’s first two games.
“We are anxious to see where the boys are at,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, our first game of the season will be a region game. I had hoped to see the team play a couple games before getting into our region schedule.”
Last season, Mount Zion made the playoffs for the first time in school history as Mundy’s Mill reached the second round of the state playoffs.
Mundy’s Mill only returns three starters — Raheem Jackson, Tray Mathews and Mark Hawkins — from last season. It is the Tigers entire outfield.
The Tigers graduated four players that hit .400 or better, and a fifth player is out due to injury. Replacing standout pitcher Corey Harmon will be a major task this spring. Harmon, the county and region player of the year, has graduated and takes with him a 1.40 ERA, but was most impressive in the playoffs with a 2-1 record.
For the Tigers to be successful, Smith will use several pitchers this season.
“We are going to throw a lot of arms at the opposing team,” Smith said. “We like the challenge because we pride ourselves on pitching and defense. We have a team that is use to winning on the varsity and sub-varsity level. I think we have a chance to be very competitive.”
Another key missing element is Rodney Smith, the coach’s son, who was all-region at second base. Smith will miss his entire junior season while he recovers from a knee injury sustained during the football season.
Gone is his good glove, .409 batting average and speed on the basepads.
“You can’t replace him,” Patrick Smith said. “It is hard to replace a player like that. We will platoon at the shortstop and second base positions.”
Smith will be looking for Jordan Robinson to make contributions as a shortstop and pitcher this season.
After the Tigers’ catcher moved to Florida, Smith said that is a position that will require some patience this season. He will platoon sophomore Josh Thomas and Hawkins at the catcher position.
“We have a lot of work to do, to be honest,” Smith said. “We will throw a lot of arms on our pitching staff. Everyone has just about the same speed. I want to evaluate them to see who can go the distance. We will have a lot of players that will be two-way players this season.”
While the Tigers want to win this season, Smith knows that the future will yield the most success with the team.
“It is best that teams get us this season,” Smith said. “We are going to have a lot of experience returning in the coming years.”