The Cleveland State baseball team will begin its 2013 season today with a 1 p.m. nonconference doubleheader at TCCAA opponent Roane State, and the Cougars have been beset by injuries. But 19th-year coach Mike Policastro feels he has a good mix of experience and new talent, with noticeably improved pitching from last year. "We have some depth, some good velocity guys and some flexibility, and we feel good about the possibilities of this year's staff," Policastro said in a school release. Former Walker Valley High School standout Brandon Zajac has transferred from the University of Tennessee and joins Jeb Scoggins and Thomas Huddleston as projected weekend starters with sophomore Andre Wilson as the closer and Bobby Towne, Jordan Whitmire, Derek Chandler, Ethan Davis, Tyler Kilgore, Haydn Bailey, Keegan Frederick and, once he gets healthy, Josh Morgan in various mound roles. Davis is recovering from a hand injury, as are outfielders Trey Potts and Stephen Collum. Shortstop DeAndre Allen, first baseman Michael Hargrove and catcher Damo DeMatteo lead the returning position players, and J.D. Cowart is another sophomore catcher with redshirt freshman Jared Davis also able to play there and be the designated hitter. Freshmen Dalton Rogers and Evan Speicher are dueling for time at second base, and classmates Keith Buckhault and currently hamstrung Chris Caffrey are challengers for returning third baseman Colby Harmon. Freshman Zach Janes from Louisville, Ky., is the center fielder with sophomores Cody Hiefnar and Chase Edwards top candidates in left and right. "We have a lot of left-handed bats, so that will give us a lot of flexibility in the lineup as far as matchups," Policastro said. "We have quite a bit of speed, so we can hopefully manufacture some runs."
• Tennessee Temple also is beginning its baseball season with a 1 p.m. road doubleheader today -- at Maryville College. Coach Greg Bartley begins his second full season after TTU went 14-36-1 in 2012 following a six-win 2011. Senior first baseman Chris Altman and junior third baseman Ryan Bruce, the top hitters last year at .337 and .336, are the only players still around from that 2011 team. The only other junior is Chattanooga State transfer Dylan Massengill, who with sophomore Hunter Giles are the top two pitchers. Alex Morton was expected to be the No. 3 starter but has elbow inflammation and is unavailable for now. Bartley learned Monday that returning outfielder Nico McElrath fell one class hour short of eligibility, and the coach's son Brett Bartley has to mix catching duties with his outfield play. Dustin Crumley is the main catcher, and Caden Shadrick returns at second base. Brandon Blome from Central Alabama Community College is providing solid shortstop play and will be the leadoff batter, and corner infielder and designated hitter Bradley Grant from Truett-McConnell will bat cleanup today. Josh Thomas, Trey Hill and Sean Leitstein complete the outfield, and Drew Phillips, Patrick Lycans and Cody Wilson are other pitchers who will start some games. "We're still young but we had a solid fall and competed with everybody," Coach Bartley said. "Grant gives us a little pop, but otherwise we have a lot of contact hitters. We've got to play a lot of low-scoring games, and I do think pitching and defense are strengths for us."
• Will Barnes and Chase Dunn combined to hit eight 3-point baskets as they totaled 23 and 19 points in Lee University's 83-51 men's basketball win over Coastal Georgia on Monday in Brunswick, Ga. Steve Bennett had eight rebounds with nine points for the Flames (22-1), ranked No. 2 in NAIA Division I. Lee also won the women's game, 74-61, as Jenna Adams had 23 points and eight rebounds and Hollie German scored 22 points. Myriah Iles and Julia Zimmerman added 14 and 12 points for the Lady Flames (20-2).
• Callum Sears was 4-for-6 on 3-pointers and scored 18 points in Covenant College's 62-58 basketball win Monday at Emory & Henry. Colton McGriff scored 13 and Sam Bowman had 11 points and eight rebounds for Covenant 11-8).
• As usually has been the case in recent years, Chattanooga-area players were very instrumental in victories for Carson-Newman as it opened its softball season with 13-0 and 9-0 wins Sunday at Belmont Abbey. Chattanooga State transfer Cassie Lyons pitched a five-inning five-hitter in the first game, and freshman Kaitie Sims from Baylor was the winner with one hit in five innings in game two. Ridgeland graduate Caitlyn Lance was 6-for-8 with four RBIs for the day, and Sara Kelley from Ooltewah High was 2-for-2 with a home run, a double, three RBIs and three runs in game two. Jessica Morgan and Bri Shoemake from Ooltewah were each 1-for-2, Morgan with two runs and an RBI and Shoemake with two RBIs, in game one.