No. 3 Pearl River's pitching 'as talented as ever'
Dylan Dunaway - PRCC Sports Information Director
POPLARVILLE, Miss. — After losing four starters and five of its top relievers, it would normally be safe to assume that No. 3 Pearl River might struggle on the mound in 2024. Ask head coach Michael Avalon about it, and it's quite the opposite.
"We lost a lot last year, but we brought a lot of impact guys back," he said. "This year's team may be as talented as we have ever been on the mound — and I am saying that after last year's team was first in the country in team ERA. Top to bottom, this team is incredibly talented on the mound."
The Wildcats will get their first test of the 2024 season on Tuesday when the Wildcats host Coastal Alabama South at 2 p.m. in their season opener. Long-time Wildcat supporter Barry Harper will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Last season, Pearl River entered the year with its four starting rotation spots locked down. Things are a bit more up in the air this season — not from a lack of talent but because PRCC's talented arms give the Wildcats a ton of options.
There are no question marks by the first two spots in the rotation as they are occupied by a pair of future SEC pitchers in Mississippi State signee JT Schnoor (Pascagoula; Resurrection) and LSU signee Conner Ware (Madison; Germantown).
"What two better to anchor a rotation than Conner Ware and JT Schnoor," Avalon said. "They're both extremely talented with good stuff. They have great character and makeup. We think they can lead the way for us and help bring the other pitchers along with them. If I want to hand the baseball to anyone, it's one of those two guys."
Schnoor consistently sits in the low 90s and is expected to make a massive leap in 2024. Since last season, he packed on 17 pounds to fill out his frame a bit more. As a freshman, Schnoor tossed 18 2/3 innings and held a 3.86 ERA.
Ware (pictured above) is a left-handed pitcher who can run his fastball up to 95. He was electric last season before a season-ending injury. He tossed 17 innings, held a 3-0 record and earned a 1.59 ERA. He struck out 28 batters and only walked three. Ware enters the season ranked as PBR JUCO's top-ranked player in 2024.
Thomas Crabtree (Collierville, Tenn.) is expected to occupy the third post in the rotation. The former East Tennessee State commit has a fastball that ranges between 90-93 miles per hour. Perfect Game ranked Crabtree as the 43rd-best player in Tennessee last season.
The fourth position is a little bit more of a battle, but JP Robertson (Madison; Germantown) is expected to slot into that spot to begin the year. Perfect Game ranked the right-hander as the 46th-best pitcher in Mississippi last season.
Numerous players who will begin the season in the bullpen could easily slot into the starting rotation if their number was called.
IN THE BULLPEN
The backend of the Wildcat bullpen has been strong over the years, and that shouldn't be any different this year. Standing at 6-foot-6, Cameron Fennell (Long Beach) will be an imposing presence and could see time as the closer for PRCC. Before his season ended due to a back injury, Fennell had a 3.09 ERA in 11 2/3 innings.
Mississippi State transfer Austin Tommasini (Madison; Madison Central) is also expected to factor into the late-game situations. As a high school senior, Tommasini helped lead Madison Central to a 6A State Championship victory. He was ranked as Perfect Game's 36th-best prospect in Mississippi.
Freshman Carson Fair (Southaven) will see innings at the backend of games. He was Mississippi's 35th-ranked prospect, according to Perfect Game.
The Wildcats will have a left-handed option in the bullpen with sophomore Louisiana Tech signee Blake Gollott (Saucier; D'Iberville). Gollott threw 27 2/3 innings last season, holding a 4.23 ERA. He struck out 25 batters and walked five.
"Blake would start on most teams, but we really like him in the bullpen," Avalon said. "We think he's most comfortable there, and we have a need there. He gives us a lot of options as a left-hander."
Redshirt freshman Blaine Knight (Kiln; Hancock) was one of PRCC's most consistent arms during the fall and the Wildcats hope it can carry over into the spring.
"Blaine has been one of our biggest surprises," Avalon said. "He was really good in the fall. His breaking ball has been a plus pitch. He's a guy that you will see a bunch of outings from."
"Hansen is just consistent. He can come into the game in any situation and compete," Avalon said. "Eli really commands the zone and throws strikes. Dylan throws from a lower arm slot and will give opponents a different look. McCrillis is another physical presence at 6-foot-5 and he should see opportunites during his freshman year."
"Both of these guys will be used in long relief and could see both get opportunities to start," Avalon said.
Tickets are on sale now at PRCCAthletics.com/Tickets. General admission tickets are $8 per game. Season passes can be purchased for $75 for softball or a softball/baseball season pass can be purchased for $100.
HOW TO WATCH
The Wildcats will once again livestream all games for free at PRCCMedia.com/gold. Fans who have Roku, Amazon Fire or Apple TV devices can also watch the Wildcat broadcasts by downloading the "Pearl River CC" channel from their app stores.
Games can also be heard at WRJW 1320-AM, 106.9 FM and WRJWRadio.com.