Of KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
For the first time since the 2020 season ended in early March, the baseball team LaGrange College will have the opportunity to play a game.
LaGrange College will host Birmingham Southern in the season opener on Wednesday at 2 p.m.
LaGrange College went 12-5 during the shortened 2020 season, and two of the losses came during a series of three games against Birmingham Southern.
The Panthers entered the 2020 season after winning the three previous USA South tournament titles, and they were the favorites to make it four in a row, but they were denied that opportunity due to COVID-19.
LaGrange was 5-1 in conference matches when the 2020 season ended.
The Panthers seem to be well positioned to continue where they left off with almost all the key players returning from last year’s team.
In fact, eight of the starting players who were on the field for the last game in 2020 will be back this season, and that includes outfielder McKinley Erves, who hit .441 last season.
Many of the Panthers’ top scorers are also back, including JR Robinson, who was 4-1 with a 1.36 earned running average last year.
Leading is David Kelton, who holds a 171-101 record during his seven seasons as head coach at LaGrange College.
Kelton, a Troup High graduate who played professional baseball for a decade, was an assistant to Kevin Howard at LaGrange College before taking the job of head coach.
Since the start of the 2016 season, the Panthers are 144-54, and they played in the NCAA Tournament every year from 2016 to 2019.
In 2019, LaGrange College lost a hard-fought best-of-three series to Birmingham Southern in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. After splitting the first four matches, Birmingham Southern won the winning match five 14-6.