Southwest Tennessee Community College

February 2, 2005

For More Information, Contact: Keith Gentry (901) 333-4114 / Kimberly Stark (901) 333-4023

Release Written by Keith Gentry

The Southwest baseball team, the defending Tennessee Junior and Community College Athletic Association and Region VII Champions, will open the 2005 season this weekend with a three game series against Bossier Parish Community College in Bossier City, Louisiana. The two teams will play a single game on Friday, February 4 at 3 p.m., followed by a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Saturday, February 5.

Southwest finished the 2004 season with a 40-22 overall record under head coach Johnny Ray, who was in his first year as the Saluqis’ mentor. The 40 wins set a new single season record at Southwest and the region title was the first ever for the College.

“We have a very solid group of players returning as well as having a super recruiting class,” said Ray, who was named the 2004 State Coach of the Year by the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association. “We have quality depth at most positions, and that was something we didn’t have last year.”

Six players return who started at least 28 games a year ago. Three infielders are back, including second baseman Ryan Orr, who set a new Southwest record for highest fielding average and was nominated for the Defensive Player of the Year in the conference. Shortstop Wes Melton was one of the Saluqis’ top hitters last season, batting .346 with 22 runs batted in, while third baseman Brad Tillman batted .260 as a freshman with 17 RBI. The Saluqis return two starting outfielders – centerfielder Chris Rogers, who was named first team All-TJCCAA and was one of the team’s top hitters with a .354 batting average, 25 doubles, and 46 RBI, and leftfielder Brit Vincent, who was second on the team with a .394 average.

Also returning is Collins Coltharp, who started 35 games as a freshman splitting time between catcher and outfield, batted .228 with three home runs and 14 RBI, left-handed pitcher Elliot Meng, who went 2-1 as a freshman in 15 appearances, and pitcher Cory Carter, another lefty who appeared in five games as a freshman.

A key addition to the Saluqis’ pitching staff is the southpaw Shane Jackson, who returns to the program after spending last season as a red-shirt at Delta State University. Jackson played his freshman season at Southwest in 2003, and was second in the conference with a 1.83 earned run average.

Joining these returning players are several newcomers who should make an immediate impact. Brendan Murphy, who was the Tennessee State Player of the Year two years ago as a senior at Grace Christian Academy in Chattanooga, transferred to Southwest from Garden City (KS) Community College and is slated to start at first base. Two of the top freshmen this spring are utility player Jeremy Finney, who was a finalist for the Best of the Preps Player of the Year last year as a senior at Christian Brothers High School, and infielder Phillip White, who led his Milan High School team to the Class AA state championship in 2004 and was named the Class AA State Player of the Year and West Tennessee Player of the Year.

The first home game for Southwest will be on Saturday, February 12, when the Saluqis host Coahoma Community College in a 1 p.m. doubleheader at Tony Gagliano Memorial Field. Following a non-conference twin-bill at Northeast Mississippi Community College on February 15, the Saluqis return home to begin TJCCAA play against Dyersburg State Community College in a three-game series on February 18-19 at Gagliano Field.