Greg Dennis started as Chattanooga State’s baseball coach in 2004. After 14 seasons, he’s starting over.
In a sense, anyway.
When the Tigers hit the field Friday in Emerson, Ga., to open the season against Georgia Highlands, everyone on the roster will have been added since last spring.
"We have 27 new souls," said Dennis, who does have Justin Parrish back for a second year as assistant coach but no longer has longtime assistant Joe Wingate, whose commitment as a county school board member on top of his full-time teaching load left little time for the Tigers.
"We miss the heck out of Joe. That’s a big loss for our program," Dennis said.
He’s looked far and wide to put together this roster, which has only one player from inside Hamilton County: freshman pitcher Matt Wingard from East Hamilton. Freshman pitcher Jordan Power is from Perth in Australia; sophomore left-handed pitcher Leonardo Castro from Cartagena, Colombia; freshman infielder Nolan Machibroda from Saskatoon in Canada.
Three players are from the state of New York, including two freshmen from the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and the Bronx. Sophomore infielder Julyan Urena is from Ozone Park, N.Y.
Acknowledging that having a team full of newcomers — four sophomore transfers and 23 freshmen — is frustrating at times, the teacher in Dennis also sees fun in watching them develop through this season and into a potentially very strong 2019.
"But we’re playing this year to play this year. Nothing is given for next year," said the coach, whose 26-25 record in 2017 was his worst with the Tigers. They’re usually in the national rankings and even have been at No. 1 since he arrived from Texas.
"We have a lot of really good guys, and we feel we have a lot of versatility," Dennis said. "At about every position we have two or three guys who can play. We’ll see who’s going to step up.
There are four candidates for the "wide open" catching position: Dalton resident Zack Teem, a sophomore transfer from Reinhardt University, and three freshmen.
The two position players most assured of starting spots are freshman shortstop Noah Fitzgerald from Canton, Ga., also one of the top pitchers, and freshman center fielder Sean Cheely from Austell, Ga. Other key pitchers include Conner Perry from Douglasville, Ga.; left-hander Kyle Nunn from Louisville, Ky.; Anthony Moreta from Brooklyn; and Power.
As for area players, Hayden Lock from Coahulla Creek High School has a good shot at second base. Others include outfielder Vinny Vega from Dalton High, infielder Josh Fedele from McMinn Central, catcher-infielder Chris Tyler from Franklin County and 2017 District 8-AAA MVP Cade Giles from Coffee County.
Contact Ron Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6291.