By Chad Dixon
Coach Adam Thomas’ Chattahoochee Valley Community College (CVCC) Pirates enter the 2018 season ranked as the #12 team in the NJCAA polls. They compiled a 47-12 record in 2017 and fell just short of their fourth consecutive Alabama Community College (ACCC) title. The loss in Ozark, Ala. to Shelton State last May doesn’t change anything for Thomas.
“It doesn’t increase or decrease the pressure. Scheduling doesn’t have any strategy to it. If we look big picture, we will be OK. We are definitely playing for May and June, but I like that our team is challenged early,” Thomas said.
In the first three weekends of the season, CVCC will play East Georgia, who was a top ranked team in 2017. They will play in the Kevin Miller Classic in Panama City Beach, Fla. and play the #15 ranked Florence-Darlington Tech. Thomas feels his team’s strength is pitching. He returns all-american right-handed pitcher Casey Cobb who led the ACCC in 2017 with 10 wins, 1.29 ERA, 96 strikeouts, 9.53 K/9 and a 0.98 WHIP (walks/hits per innings pitched). Cobb has touched up to 95 mph on his fastball and consistently pitches in the high 90’s.
Following Cobb in the CVCC rotation will be lefty Cole Ganopulos, who was 6-0 in seven starts last year. He posted a 1.33 ERA with 32 strikeouts over 40 2/3 innings. He pitches 86-91 mph with a power slider. Righty Jacob Menders is slotted at CVCC’s number three starter. He is Virginia transfer with four plus pitches that reach the upper 80’s. Thomas is very high on his command of his pitches. Lefty Carson Hicks and righty Charles Crosby, both sophomores, will be considered for the rotation as well. Hicks was 3-0 with a 2.67 ERA last season, while Crosby struck out 41 over 46 2/3 innings.
Thomas will have a new infield. Notre Dame transfer Michael Feliz is a strong candidate at third. He batted .400 at Florida’s IMG Academy in high school. Perfect Game ranked him as the top shortstop in the state of New Jersey and is a two-time Perfect Game Underclassmen All-American. Sophomore Jack Copley is also a consideration at the hot corner. He batted .347 with a .443 on-base percentage in 2017 through 49 at-bats.
Georgia Tech shortstop transfer Parker McCoy played in very few games in 2017, but is a 2016 Rawlings-Perfect Game All-American Honorable Mention and looks to be the CVCC starting shortstop. Rankin Woley, is a LSU transfer and will compete for starts at second base with John Devine. Devine hit .404 with eight doubles, three home runs and 38 RBI in 2017. Right-handed Fuzzy Furr will return at first base. He hit .319 with a .467 on-base percentage for the Pirates last season.
Phenix City’s Evan Baber (RHP) and Carson Allison (OF) are two local freshmen that will battle for playing time on this season’s Pirates.
“I really like this team and so far they seem to have phenomenal chemistry,” Thomas added.
CVCC will start their 2018 season on Jan. 26 when they play at East Georgia College in a two-day, three-game series. They will play their first home game on Feb. 15 when they host West Georgia Tech.