Bears eager to start new era under new head coach

Published 7:23 am Friday, February 11, 2022

For the first time in several years, the Bear baseball team is preparing to enter a season with a new head coach. After former coach Ken Jackson retired last year, longtime junior college assistant Jack Edmonson was hired to lead the Bears.

And as he and his team make final preparations ahead of Friday’s double-header home opener against Mineral Area (IL), there is a high level of anticipation.

“We’re anxious, we’re ready to play. We’ve talked about it a lot,” Edmonson said. “Being ready for game day, we really feel good about our guys. We make jokes about it all the time. We come off the field and say ‘man, we’ve got a really good group of guys.’ We’ve practiced really hard and we are ready to play.”

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The Bears have a tough slate of non-conference action to open the 2022 campaign. In addition to Mineral Area, SMCC will also face two other teams from the Midwest in Kaskaskia (IL) and Southeastern Iowa as well as Louisiana teams in Delgado and Louisiana Christian College.

Those contests are the appetizer for the main course of conference play, which will kick off Mar. 15 with a pair of road contests at East Central.

Competition in the MACCC is no stranger to Edmonson. A former player and assistant coach at East Central, Edmonson also had stops as an assistant at Mississippi Delta and Co-Lin prior to taking over the Bears. He adds that he is thankful for everything that he has learned in his career preparing him for his first head coaching opportunity.

I’ve worked for some really good head coaches, Coach (Neal) Holliman at East Central, (Michael) Avalon at Pearl River who was the head coach at Mississippi Delta when I was there and Clay Smith at Co-Lin,” Edmonson said. “All of those guys helped prepare me, each one in different ways.”

Thus far, Edmonson has noticed that his team has several strengths, but there is one that stands out to him in particular.

“The first thing on my mind is starting pitching,” he said. “We have three guys who are really good starting pitchers. I don’t think that is something that I have ever been a part of very often. Most of the time you have two and piece together the other two games. I think that we have three legit. We also have a lot of pieces in the bullpen that are going to be able to help.”

The three Edmonson is referring to is Braxton Cooksey and Shaine O’Keefe, both sophomores and freshman Josh Miller.

On the other side, Edmonson is also excited about the potential he sees in his offense.

“(I love) our athleticism and the opportunity and the potential to be explosive on offense,” he said. “Offense is very exciting for me, that is my favorite part of the game. I’m excited about what we are going to bring to the table.”

Among the top offensive players for the Bears is a group of sophomores in last year’s leading hitter Brady Tynes, Jonathan Havard, Jerod Williams, newcomer Brady Wilson and recent William Carey signee Braydon Coffey.

Edmonson will have a group of 14 sophomores and 18 freshmen at his disposal. In addition, a good mixture of both left and right-handed bats in the lineup.

“We’ve got three left-handed hitters who will be in the lineup on opening day,” he said. “All three of them are similar but are a lot different too. They are Brady Wilson, Brady Tynes and Jonathan Havard. They are three big, strong, powerful bats that will help us. On the right side we have a good mix of speed and power. I think that we are going to be pretty balanced.”

The Bears also boast plenty of depth at each position as many players are versatile and can play at multiple spots when called upon.

As far as team leadership, the Bears will rely upon a pair of captains in former Parklane teammates Coffey and Wilson.

“The team voted on that and they ran away with the voting,” Edmonson said. “Almost everybody on the team voted for them for captains. They are not big talkers but when they do, everybody listens. They do a good job of setting the example everyday.”

When asked if he has a kid who is an up-and-comer who can make plenty of noise this season, Edmonson said that is D’Iberville-alum and outfielder James Yeager.

“He’s really exploded for us this year,” he said. “And he came as a kid that honestly I don’t think he knew he was good enough to play. He can really run, he has a really good arm and the ball really explodes off his bats. He’s developed into a player that we have no choice but to put in the lineup.”

Edmonson is also very thankful to enter his first season as head coach with strong staff in assistants Derrick Mount and Tyler Graham, who both boast a wealth of knowledge and experience.

“I know that for me personally, they’ve made it awesome,” Edmonson said. “They’ve made it a lot easier. They do a great job. You don’t have to watch over their shoulder and make sure that they are doing what we need to do. They are both very intelligent when it comes to baseball and coaching their positions and handling our players. They both work really hard.”