PERKINSTON, MS (WLOX) - With the non-conference portion of their 2018 campaign now in the books, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Bulldogs are hard at work preparing for the meat of their schedule, attacking the weight room with the same mindset they bring to the diamond.
"(We) practice with a mentality of playing every pitch, every out, every game," head coach Rodney Batts said.
It's an approach that is paying early dividens for Gulf Coast. The 16th ranked Bulldogs enter MACJC play with a stellar 16-2 record, outscoring their opponents by an average of 6.8 runs per game.
"We have a bunch of pitchers that have good stuff," freshman Brandon Parker said. "(They) know how to work it and, I mean, they've just been lock-down, really. Our hitters have been aggressive at the plate, hitting pitches we need to and taking pitches we need to."
As for those hitters, Parker is no exception. The freshman outfielder has provided a pleasant surprise for the Bulldogs with his steadiness at the plate in big situations.
"We always knew he was a good player, a good hitter," Batts said. "He had all the tools to do that, but to hit 11 home runs in 18 games is pretty remarkable."
Batting .337 with five home runs as a senior, his prep career at West Harrison was certainly nothing to scoff at, but the former Hurricane blasted his way through non-conference play with a .482 batting average, and currently leads all of JUCO Division II baseball in home runs.
"(I'm) making everything more basic," Parker said of his improved approach since joining the collegiate ranks. "In high school I was trying to do too much, trying to be somebody who I wasn't, trying to put balls out the yard. (I) just tried to simplify everything, hit line drives and it just happens."
As the Bulldogs prepare for their conference opener this Saturday at #8 Itawamba, Parker will have the target planted firmly on his back, but says he's up for the challenge.
"Well, he's not a secret anymore," Batts said with a smile. "People look at stats and see his numbers, home runs, RBI, so he's gonna be a guy that they're gonna key on and say 'he can't beat us.'"
"Everybody's going to be throwing their best stuff at you," Parker said. "It's not going to be easy at all. Everybody knows you, everybody knows where your weakness is, so you've gotta focus in on that and hit the pitches that you might not want to hit."
First pitch from Fulton set for 2 p.m. this Saturday.