The Chattanooga State baseball team already is 26-8 with an 11-4 record in its league and is ranked 18th in NJCAA Division I, whereas the Chattanooga Lookouts officially get started Thursday night. Tonight the junior college program will welcome the Class AA professional club to town in their annual exhibition matchup at 7:15 at AT&T Field, and the event involves a nearly 30-year reunion.
Chattanooga State coach Greg Dennis was the third baseman next to new Lookouts manager Jody Reed at shortstop for Florida State in 1984. Reed was a senior that year; Dennis was a junior transfer.
"I followed Jody when he went up to the bigs, but I haven't kept in touch with him like I have some of my old teammates," Dennis said Monday. "It will be interesting to catch up with him and have him here in town."
The Tigers have lost 3-2 and 1-0 to the Lookouts the past two years.
"That's been kind of an aberration. We've been pretty fortunate the last couple of years," Dennis said. "I'm always happy to get a few hits and get a run in against them.
"This game has been great for our program. It's such a boost for us to be able to do this -- from a recruiting standpoint and a credibility standpoint. For the college it's great visibility, and for our guys it's an experience they won't forget. The Lookouts people always treat us really well."
As usual Dennis plans to use most of his 10 available pitchers tonight. The Tigers' big priority this week is their home TCCAA series against ninth-ranked Walters State, scheduled as of now for one game Friday and a doubleheader Saturday. The teams share the league lead.
"That's going to make for a very challenging weekend," Dennis said.
The Tigers have won all five of their league series so far, most recently bouncing back from a 10-2 loss Thursday at Motlow with 11-7 and 11-1 wins Friday featuring outstanding hitting by Casey Mannion and Zach Lance and strong pitching by Adam Weldon and Colton Kinnamon.
Chattanooga State is batting .344 as a team.
"We swing it pretty good," Dennis said, noting the hitting of sophomore transfers Mannion and Aaron Wright in particular. First baseman Wright is third in NJCAA Division I with 48 RBIs and tied for fifth with seven home runs while batting .404, while outfielder Mannion is hitting .449 with five homers and 31 RBIs.
"They make as good a middle of the order as I've ever had," Dennis said.
Sophomore middle infielders Jordan McDonald and Marquis Webb are batting .364, and sophomore Tyler McClure and freshman Tyler Troutt lead the pitching staff.