Three Rivers baseball is holding its exit meetings with finals taking place next week, followed by a six week long Christmas break. Coach Tyler Smith, entering his first spring as head coach of the Raiders after longtime coach Stacey Burkey retired this past spring, is reminding the team to be prepared when they come back in January. “I’m really excited moving into the spring and seeing how we do because I think we have a chance to be really successful,” Smith said. “This has been a really good group.” While a lot of teams around the region and country didn’t play in the fall, the Raiders were able to play six scrimmages on three total dates during a hectic fall. The games varied on the number of innings and they didn’t really keep track of stats or scores, Smith said. In a typical fall, the Raiders usually play 8 to 10 dates before the regular season starts in February.
Even with the restricted schedule, Smith thinks that freshman insecurity should be gone in the spring and his players should feel like they belong. “When you play another team in a different jersey, there is a different feel about it,” Smith said. The Raiders dodged the COVID-19 pandemic, for the most part, Smith said, but they’ve had some positive cases recently and had to shut down. He’s making sure they know what they’re supposed between now and January because the team only has four weeks before games start once players return to campus. Smith added that four weeks isn’t enough time to get back into shape and play at a high level, so the Raiders need to continue to work during the break.
So far, he added the core group of leaders on the team have done a good job of keeping people accountable. “I really enjoy how our sophomores have taken the reigns and led by example,” Smith said. “Everybody has gotten better, everybody is making jumps and competing for spots.” The Raiders played 22 games and were 11-11 before their 2020 season was shut down in March. Seven sophomores took advantage of the NJCAA offering them an extra year of eligibility. One of whom is Kyle Clayton, who was leading the team with a .481 on-base percentage.
Three Rivers is expected to return one of its top hitters in Kolten Poorman, who recently signed with Missouri. Poorman was second on the team with a .328 batting average and a .459 on-base percentage. The spring roster should also have four former Poplar Bluff Mules on it in Carson Webb, Mason Libla, Sam Pierce and Michael White, as well as Van Buren alums Steven Simmons and Trey Nicholson. The Raiders start their season Feb. 5 against Muskegon Community College in Millington, Tenn., and their home opener is March 6 against Marshalltown.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic