Lady Pioneers basketball

By: Jim Hayes

Volunteer State Community College Lady Pioneer head basketball coach Otis Key hopes the experience gained during last year’s 8-20 season translates to more wins this year.

The Pioneers kick off their 2018-19 schedule with away games at Cumberland University Nov. 1  and at Snead State Nov. 2. Their home schedule begins with a Nov. 12 game against Northeast Mississippi.

They open conference play the following Saturday, Nov. 17, at home against Jackson State.

The Pioneers return eight sophomores, led by all-conference point guard Aliyah Miller, the nation’s leading three-point shooter, Kelsey Harriman, and Shalaya Armstead who finished second in the conference in rebounding.

“This is the first year that I have had a really good mix of sophomores and freshmen and that all of the kids have been able to contribute,” said Key, a former Harlem Globetrotter player.

“The sophomores went through the fire last year. They are battle tested and they’re kind of bringing the freshmen along,” said Key.

Key said Miller is, “long and with good size.”

“She sees the floor well and handles the ball well and makes good decisions. I think once she trusts her teammates this thing will really go,” said Key.

Miller said this year’s team has more chemistry because of the number of returners.

“Being the starting point guard, you have to lead the team. I have to be the one talking offense and defense and passing the ball,” said Miller.

Harriman said her leadership role will include helping “everyone get into their spots. So far they execute the plays pretty well,” she said.

In 23 games last year, point-guard Miller averaged 10.5 points, 3.5 assists, and 7.5 rebounds per game. Harriman, the other guard, tallied 8.8 points per game on 2.8 three point shots each contest.

“All of our freshmen will come in and make an impact. Once they get their confidence under them they will be instrumental for us,” said Key.

Key said the Pioneers will try to play an up-tempo game this year, utilizing their speed and shooting ability. He said he is hoping for a 20 win season.

“If we win the games we are supposed to, battle in the ones that are 50/50 and maybe steal one or two we shouldn’t, we have a chance at 20 wins,” said Key.

“I think our main strength is that we are quick, we’re fast, we’re long and athletic We’re able to do a lot of things on the defensive end once we learn the concept,” said Key.

“Our weakness is that we are small,” he said. “I don’t have the luxuries of the 6’2 or 6’3s,” said Key. “But I think this team makes up for it in grit and fight and heart.”

“We have a tough schedule this year. I did that on purpose to get these eight seniors seen,” said Key.

Vol State Men’s Basketball season starts

By: Nick Kieser

The 2018-19 basketball season is going to be tipping-off on Nov.2 at Snead State Community College.

With a record of 8-18 to finish last year’s season the coaching staff is preparing their players for another season.

“This year we have five guys coming back beside George Stanberry that played in about every game last year. We have Justin Goodson who is a pretty good shooter returning as well,” said head coach Rusty Melvin.

Stanberry, according to Melvin, is the best junior college basketball athlete in the nation. Scoring 726 points last year Stanberry was the men’s JUCO basketball leader in points to finish the season.

“Jordan Buchanan from Bowling Green is the most improved player from last year. He hit a shot in the tournament last year to put the game into overtime,” said Melvin.

Starting at the beginning of the school year the team reported to practices, and according to Melvin, he could not be there most of the time due to his wife having hip replacement surgery.

Having assistant coaches Ethan Abner, Ken Miller, and Neil Patel to run the practices the roster was still working out every day on a routine schedule.

“I feel good about it. This is the most enjoyable group of kids that I ever have had to coach. The assistants had them going all September while I was out on leave taking care of my wife. I have been back since the start of October and they have the tempo set already,” said Melvin.

“I need to be more vocal this year. I have last years experience to go off of, and I am still learning to be the best leader that I can be,” said Stanberry.

The 16-man roster has its first regular season game on Nov. 2 at Snead State Community College. Game one in Gallatin is Nov. 5 versus Bethel University’s junior varsity team.

“I am excited and focused. I want to win more. The more wins will equal having good opportunities this year. We have more size and role players on this roster now,” said Stanberry.

“We need to be leaders for everyone on the team. We will keep mentoring each other as well. Team chemistry will help make this team good this year,” said guard Kevin Rimmer.

Winning two games on the road last season and averaging 79 points a game is how the men’s team finished, but this year the schedule, according to Melvin, is not an easy one.

“You can just tell the way they play that they have confidence in themselves. I see them in the gym shooting and working on things. I do not have to tell them to play hard. They know what I want from them,” said Melvin.

“Work on more of my defense, and being in the right place at the right time. We are trying to put Vol State on the map. The more support the better,” said Stanberry.

Swinging back into pioneer baseball

By: Nick Kieser 

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Photo taken by Jacob McKaig

The 2019 Volunteer State Community College Pioneers baseball team is back from summer break with a new group of players and some returning as well.

With the regular season not for another semester, the Pioneers are reporting to practices and getting back into form for a full season that is ahead.

“We are still trying to gel together and find out what we have. We want to know who fits best right now,” said head coach, Ryan Hunt.

Just as of late the team has been doing inner-squad games on Garrett Field to see where specific guys will fit and who will make the final squeeze on the roster come opening day.

On Sept. 12, the Cumberland University junior varsity baseball team visited the Pioneers for a preseason matchup.

The Pioneers played 8 innings defeating Cumberland 10-0 which is otherwise known in college baseball as a run rule.

“Everyday you need the same intensity and if you don’t you’re not working hard enough. Coach Hunt doesn’t want us outworked no matter who we play,” said Sophomore pitcher, Chase Haley.

A record of 30-18 last season was good enough to place in third at the NJCAA postseason tournament in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

According to Hunt, this year the Pioneers will be more freshman-heavy than having the returning players come back this spring.

“A big thing is trying to teach guys how to play the game hard and not when they just feel like it. Practice, game, and scrimmage you have to give it everything you’ve got,” said Hunt.

Expectations have been set for the team and coach Hunt has a vision for what he wants to see from his group.

“If you tend to play the game the right way things usually tend to work out. Last year is over with and this year, in my opinion, we play a pretty tough schedule,” said Hunt.

“We are hoping that some of the sophomores can step up and some of the freshmen we’ve brought in should play a key role in getting us there. We lost a lot of pitching and now we have some guys who have a chance to prove themselves this year,” said assistant coach, Jason Barrett.

The other teams in Vol State’s conference are competitive like they are. Leadership is something that will need to be accounted for when the regular season comes around this upcoming spring semester.

“Step up in leadership roles. Leading by example and vocally is a big thing to let the freshmen see how it’s done at this level and what it’s gonna take to compete. Going to have to step up ourselves to take our game up to the next level so we can prove ourselves against teams like Walters State and Chipola,” said sophomore catcher, Zeke Lecomte.

“I am most excited for a chance to just get on the baseball field. When you’re in this business it’s because you love the game. The game will chew you up and spit you out and won’t forget when you are gone, but as coach Hunt would say any day to wake up and be part of the game is a blessing,” said Barrett.

In just four months the games will start and from there on there will be no turning back to just fix mistakes that came up in the fall.

First baseman Bill Hamilton commits to MTSU

By: Nate Kaly 

The Volunteer State Community College Pioneers first-basemen Bill Hamilton committed to Middle Tennessee State University on Tuesday, Sept. 18.

Photo of Bill Hamilton taken by Jacob McKaig

Photo of Bill Hamilton taken by Jacob McKaig

While Hamilton, who is a sophomore at Vol State this year, had offers from several schools, he knew he would be going to MTSU after he visited the facility last weekend.

“The big reason I chose MTSU is the coaches. I went on my visit Sunday (Sept. 16) and they made me feel right at home when I was there. All really cool guys. They were all just hired and ready to get off to a good start,” said Hamilton.

Although Jim Tomen just took over as MTSUs baseball coach in June, he already has a plan in place to use Hamilton in his system.

“I was able to meet new head coach Tomen on Sunday. We went over how I would fit in with the team and the different areas that he wanted to use me on the field,” said Hamilton.

Because Hamilton’s numbers from the 2018 spring season at Vol State didn’t jump out of the box (.357 AVG. 5 HR. 30 RBI. 25 runs), he knows that there is still a learning curve to go through this season before taking the next step at a division one school.

“The biggest thing for me is to take the next step and have a breakout season. Also probably to see leadership improve. Just talking to the younger guys and always making sure that they know exactly what to do and lead by example,” said Hamilton.

When asked what kind of player MTSU will be getting next year, Hamilton said, “Hard-working.”

“Bill is very deserving of that. You see a big-time prospect by the way he looks. He’s been hungry since he got here, and he’s proved people wrong. MTSU is getting in my opinion, a big-time player,” said head coach Ryan Hunt.

This season Hamilton will try to improve a Pioneers offense that hit the third-fewest runs (278), third-fewest home runs (25) and second fewest RBIs (217) in the conference last season.

Although the fall season consists of expedition games and games that don’t count against the team’s record like the spring season does, it will be an opportunity for the Pioneers offense and Hamilton to work out any wrinkles that they might have, to reach their full potential as an offense in the spring.

Vol State baseball wrapping up season

 

By Nick Kieser

The Volunteer State Community College Pioneers baseball team is at the end of its regular season. This weekend the Pioneers will face off against the Roane State Community College Raiders.

“It’s game by game. Put our heads down and go after it. Worry about the game in front of us,” said Aaron England, relieving pitcher.

The three remaining games are preparation for the 2018 postseason. As of publication, the Pioneers would face Roane State in a play-in game situation.

“The pressure of it makes it fun,” said England.

The pioneers have an overall record of 23-15.

“In a disciplinary way coach has guided us in the right way. Team chemistry has been good comparing to recent years. This season has helped us bond,” said Matt Brown, second baseman.

The postseason tournament will be from May 6-11, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Depending on where the Pioneers finish, it is possible they will play on the first day of the tournament at 3:00 p.m. they would play the 10th seeded team.

“When we have our hitting, pitching, and defense all rolling together its a dangerous mix for these guys,” said Logan Maloney, assistant coach.

The road to the college world series is going through Chattanooga on the Pioneers first pitstop.

“The expectation is that every team in this conference is good. Every week we have to compete and give it our all. I look forward to competing each week, and I love facing the competition we get,” said Jacob Cole, starting pitcher.

The 44-game grind will end this weekend at home versus the Raiders, but another road will open up as the postseason will only be eight days away after the series is over.

“You have to be positive and wait for the next opportunity,” said Ryan Hunt, head coach.

“Well it’s always great to end the season off on a good note with a series win going into the conference tournament. That’d be great to not have to be in the play-in game,” said Cole.

“I think we have a good shot. I think we can kinda get it rolling again to stay out of the play-in game, which saves us an arm,” said Maloney.

To stay updated with the Pioneers baseball club for the remainder of their season follow them @VSCCPioneersBSB on Twitter for updates and analysis.