Entering the fifteenth year under Coach Adam Thomas’ leadership, the Chattahoochee Valley Pirates will begin the 2014 campaign as the # 12 team in the country as determined by Perfect Game. Over the past decade, there is no question that the Chattahoochee Valley Pirate baseball team has established itself as one of the ACCC’s, Southeast Regional, and national elite programs.
During the initial three years under Thomas’ guidance, the Pirates underwent a major reconstruction, beginning with the foundation of Character, Pride, Discipline, and Class installed in the fall of 1999. The Pirates displayed significant and steady improvement each of those first two years, in terms of wins, academic success, and sophomore advancement.
However, the Pirates have enjoyed the fruits of their labor from the onset of the 2003 season and that success has continued through the conclusion of the 2013 season. During this ten year stretch, Thomas’ teams have been perennial playoff participants and have been a championship contender year in and year out.
At the completion of Thomas’ third season at the helm in 2002, he gave CVCC its first winning record since 1996 and the table has since been set each year for reverberating success. The Pirates went on to set school records for wins (41) and finished as the runners-up in the AJCCC in 2003, continued by a 35 win season and another playoff appearance in 2004, followed by a 39 win season and an appearance in the semi-finals of the ACCC Tournament and fourth place finish in 2005.
The Pirates continued their winning and post-season success in 2006 with a 32 win season and another post-season berth, and with a 90% freshman 2007 squad that, once again, tied the school record for wins (41) culminating with a third place ACCC finish. With those baby Pirates turned seasoned veterans, they had a repeat performance and won 41 more games to complete another third place finish in 2008. Additionally, the 2008 sophomore class finished as the winningest class in CVCC history, finishing with an astonishing 82 wins to their credit.
Furthermore, with yet another predominantly freshman club, the 2009 edition of the Pirates posted another 39 win season and repeat trip to the conference semi-finals.
After returning nearly every member of that 2009 club, 2010 Pirates claimed the ACCC Southern Division Championship, while posting an amazing 42-8 record, with the 42 wins and .840 winning percentage setting a new standard for CVCC Baseball. For an encore performance, with virtually an entirely new team of freshmen, the 2011 edition of the Pirates, once again, claimed the ACCC’s Southern Division Championship, while posting another 39 win season, while the 2012 club fought their way to a 35 win season and, yet another ACCC Tournament appearance.
The 2013 club made Chattahoochee Valley baseball history by becoming the first team in the school’s existence to claim the # 1 spot in the NJCAA poll, in which they held for nearly 3 weeks. After finishing 42-12 and tying the school record for wins, the Pirates were once again, post-season participants in the ACCC Tournament.
For over a decade, CVCC has built on the foundation of Character, Pride, Discipline, and Class, and has developed Tenacity, Toughness, Focus, and Confidence. The Pirates play the game the way it is supposed to be played – HARD! Thomas’ players have earned the reputation as hard-nosed players who never quit and have been branded as one of the hardest teams to beat in the ACCC.
This has been evident since the breakout season of 2003, as the Pirates have been one of the most successful teams in the ACCC, as well as the southeastern part of the country, and have matched or broken school records for wins in four of the past seven seasons, with the 2007 and 2008 clubs posting back to back 41 win seasons, and of course the 2010 and 2013 teams earning a league leading and school record 42 victories.
A continued sense of excitement is in the air at Howard Lake Field, as the veteran 2014 Pirates are extremely talented while returning virtually every member of their 2013 pitching staff, and once again, will expected to be one of the teams to contend for the ACCC crown
There has always been one constant on an Adam Thomas coached baseball team – STRONG PITCHING. The Pirates will be led by virtually, an all sophomore pitching staff, with only a handful of new faces joining the 2014 staff. The staff will be led by Auburn signee, Dalton “Big Donkey” Rentz who looks to pick up where he left off as a freshman, going 10-1 with a 2.44 ERA and 67 strikeouts.
The 2-6 spots, in no particular order, will fall into the hands of sophomores Hunter Mitchell (5-5, 3.31), University of South Alabama signee Kevin Moore (3-1, 1.50, 38 K’s in 24 IP), flame throwing Matt Evenson (4-0, 4.28, 44 K’s, 33 IP), and Dylan Lee who saw limited action as a freshman. Sophomore and Georgia Southern University signee will certainly be in the mix for one of those spots pending a return from a shoulder injury.
Expect the majority of the relief pitching to fall on the shoulders of another plethora of sophomore arms. Right handers Payne Kosobucki (1-0, 3.00), Cody Sheffield (17 K’s, 14 IP), Mitch Shelby, and Dan Lynn have all proved to be more than capable of holding leads for the Pirate starters to get to the closers. The freshmen of the staff will be led by Trevor Guthrie, who looks to be poised for a breakout year in numerous roles, along with redshirt freshman sinker baller, Jon Kizzar.
The late relief/closing duties will fall, once again, into the hands of Georgia Southern signee, Chris Brown (2-0, 3 saves, 0.66 16 K’s, 13 IP). Also, expect to see the debut of freshman heat tossers, Tyler Welch and surprise freshman, Will Tillery, who has been electric this fall and spring, to see action in this role as well.
Around the infield diamond, there will be several familiar names back in the Pirate lineup. Anchoring the group will be the rock solid catcher, Jared Martin (.337, 45 RBI). Martin, a University of South Carolina signee, is without question, the top shut down defensive catcher as well as one of the top offensive threats in the ACCC after an All-Conference freshman year. Jake Maziar, a Wake Forest transfer, will anchor down first base and back up Martin behind the dish, while Clemson transfer, Trevor Kieboom will man third base and Florida State transfer, John Holland, will hold down the fort at shortstop.
Second base will see 2 freshmen, Kenny Ford and Drew Lingo seeing time there, as well as the other two infield positions, as well. Expect big freshman, Grayson Ivey to play both infield corners, as well as the DH position for the Pirates, along with catcher Reid Michalek seeing action there, also.
The outfield returns both new and old faces in 2014. With plenty of speed to burn, sophomores JD Perry, who is returning from a season ending hamstring injury and James Cunningham (7 SB), along with freshman Drew Dunagan all will be part of an everyday outfield rotation. Rotating on the corners and in the DH spot will be sophomores Sam Knight (.304, 19 RBI), Cam Sperry, and former second baseman, Jeff Ronpirin (.366, 20 RBI).
Additionally, the Pirates received a great Christmas present at the semester break, as OF Tyler Lynn, who transferred from Auburn, will be an instant offensive threat on the corners and as the Pirate DH. Also, pending a return from wrist surgery, expect so see freshman speedster, Tim Kennedy, roaming the outfield grass at Howard Lake Field, as well.
After having a target on their back in 2013 while holding an NJCAA # 1 ranking for two weeks and being nationally ranked all season, the Pirates are poised to make a run at the ACCC Central Division Title. The key for CVCC this year is the focus on the process of becoming a champion, looking past the high expectations that come with the success the program has achieved, and finding a way to finish in the post-season.
The team looks to be poised and working with a sense of purpose as they build on the foundation that Coach Adam Thomas has lain. With continued hard work, dedication, and the “Dirty Pirate” mentality, the 2014 season hopes to be something special for the Chattahoochee Valley Pirates.