The 64th season of Gamecock baseball will begin on Friday with projected starter Taylor Shields making his first career start for Jax State.
The Gadsden, Ala., native transferred to JSU from Calhoun Community College where he finished his career with a 15-6 record and a 3.20 earned run average.
Junior Adam Polk and redshirt freshman Kurt Lipscomb will also make their first career starts for JSU on Saturday and Sunday.
Polk, the 2010 Alabama High School Athletic Association 4A Pitcher of the Year, will start on Saturday with Lipscomb taking the mound on Sunday.
Libscomb was a first-team All-State selection in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and finished his high school career with a 16-1 record with a 0.70 ERA and 207 strikeouts.
The 2013 season will mark head coach Jim Case's 12th season at Jax State and he has led the Gamecocks into the OVC Tournament for all nine years since joining the league in 2004.
Jax State has advanced to the OVC Championship Game in seven of the nine years competing in the league. This year's squad was picked third in the 2013 Ohio Valley Conference preseason baseball poll, as selected by the league's OVC head baseball coaches and sports information directors.
"We are very excited about getting on the field," said Case. "There is excitement everywhere right now, we are all undefeated. We know the season is right around the corner and it's going to start counting."
The 2013 edition of the Gamecock baseball team features 19 returning players from last year's team and 13 newcomers that will be looking to replace three Major League Baseball draftees in Ben Waldrip (10th round/Colorado Rockies), Sam Eberle (25th rounds/San Francisco Giants) and Daniel Watts (32nd round/Arizona Diamondbacks).
This year's squad includes five seniors, 14 juniors, five sophomores and nine freshmen, including four position starters and seven returning pitchers.
"We will have all new starters this year and a new closer," said Case. "But, we do have some guys that have some experience and their roles are going to increase and it's opportunity for them."
Ohio Valley Conference All-Freshman selection Travis Stout returns as one of the Gamecocks top pitchers after posting a 5-1 record in three starts and 24 relief appearances last year.
Seniors Robby Lilly, Ben Haynes, and Cody Ponder, juniors Casey Antley, Michael Barber, Bradley Raulston, Michael Mason, Adam Polk and Taylor Shields, sophomores Taylor Sparks and Tony Urban, and freshmen Kurt Lipscomb and Graham Officer will also see action on the mound in 2013 for the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks' top offensive returners include junior catcher Cal Lambert (.271 avg/23 RBI), Andrew Bishop (.237 avg/15 RBI) and Coty Blanchard (.230 avg).
Blanchard and Bishop both spent last summer playing in the prestigious Cape Cod League, and both were named to the 2011 OVC All-Freshman team.
"This is going to be a different team, we are not going to hit as many home runs as the past, but I think this team will be able to run," added Case. "I really believe this team has a chance to play really good defense, which could be a big help to a young pitching staff."
Junior Eddie Mora-Loera and sophomore Colby Dixson join freshmen Tyler Gamble, Paschal Petrongolo, Sanders Ferrell, Gavin Golsan and A.J. Reynolds are all expected to add depth to the JSU infield.
In the outfield, Junior Michael Bishop returns after hitting three home runs and driving in 17 RBI last season.
Other outfielders include returning seniors Zach Elbirt and Adam Miller, while newcomers Chase Silvani, Griff Gordon and freshman Ty Pierce will add depth to the outfield position.
First pitch for Friday night is set for 3 p.m. Saturday's game is set for 1 p.m. with Sunday's game beginning at 12 p.m.
Jax State will then return home to host UAB in the home-opener at Rudy Abbott Field on Tuesday Feb. 19 at 3 p.m.
Season tickets are now available by calling the JSU Athletic Ticket Office at 256-782-8499 or online at JSUGamecockSports.com.