In between stops in the University of North Carolina system, Aaron Wright is expected to help lead the Chattanooga State baseball team to another strong season this year.
That season is scheduled to start Saturday at Georgia Perimeter. The Tigers will host Piedmont's junior varsity at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Wright is a sophomore transfer who led UNC Asheville in batting last spring, and he and returning Chattanooga State shortstop Jordan "Jordy" McDonald from Perth, Australia, already have committed to UNC Greensboro for next year.
McDonald hit .343 with a .472 on-base percentage, 17 extra-base hits, 43 runs batted in and 38 runs scored last year for the Tigers, who went 39-19.
"[McDonald] is the straw that stirs the drink for this team, and he has all of the tools to be an All-American player here," coach Greg Dennis said. "And Wright has the chance to be a lethal middle-of-the-order guy."
Another sophomore transfer expected to make an impact is second baseman Marquis Webb, an Atlanta resident who played football and baseball at Lenoir-Rhyne. Dennis gives him the starting nod but noted that freshman Tripp Sullivan from Marietta "has shown some unreal athletic ability in the field" at second.
Zach Lance from Ringgold returns at third base, where he hit .331 and was second-team All-TCCAA last year, and Dennis said he "has improved greatly both at the plate and in the field." Similarly, backup first baseman Luke Shipway from Australia is a much more consistent hitter as a sophomore, the coach noted.
Sophomore Tyler Garner from Boyd-Buchanan brings experience to center field but is being pushed by freshman Shelden Brogden from Notre Dame, and freshmen will man the other outfield spots with Ringgold's Read Walden and Texan Jared Wilson both strong candidates in left and Ryan Whitt from Brentwood High and Casey Mannion from Atlanta providing "very potent bats" in right. Mannion probably will start off as the designated hitter.
Freshmen also are dueling at catcher with Austin Swayze from Murfreesboro Riverdale and Brandon Bush from Marshall County.
Dennis has a solid set of sophomore pitchers, including Fannin County's Tyler McClure as the expected staff leader, plus two freshmen of whom much is expected in Tyler Troutt from Alcoa and Adam Weldon from Ringgold.
Troutt, he said, "is a very, very good freshman who will see weekend starts with his ability and consistency," and Weldon may start or relieve "and will see quality innings."
Alex Ridge from Ridgeland, Carson Bryant from Asheville and Colton Kinnamon from Dalton are sophomores who were a combined 17-3 last year, and all could be used in conference series, and Mark Harris from Cookeville "is a redshirt sophomore who has the best arm of the staff and potentially could be a Saturday starter," said Dennis, who is assisted again by Joe Wingate with former players Coty Green and Trey Burstrom helping as well.
"We feel we have a great mix of talent and maturity on this year's team," Dennis said. "The coaching staff have all put in countless hours preparing these guys, and with some good solid sophomore leadership we honestly believe we can push the bar even higher for our program."