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Commodores will have younger look in 2018

By PAT McCANN
News Herald Executive Sports Editor

Posted Sep 19, 2017 at 9:00 PM

 

The Rubik’s Cube that can be recruiting at the junior college level took a few uncertain twists for head coach Mike Kandler and the Gulf Coast State College baseball program.

 

Not the least was the fallout from Kandler’s diagnosis of cancer last spring during the Commodores’ Panhandle Conference portion of the schedule. Kandler was able to finish his 12th season on the bench, but his resultant treatment meant that assistant coach Tyler Younger would handle some of the day-to-day duties relating to the program during the offseason.

 

To a large extent, that meant recruiting.

 

“He did it,” Kandler said flatly. “He deserves 100 percent of the credit. He put a team together and it wasn’t easy. Who wants to go somewhere where who knows if the coach is even going to be there?”

 

Kandler is still there, albeit in a weaker state and possibly somewhat less vocal after recovering from a cancerous tumor at the base of his tongue. While some former players and possibly a few umpires might think that is a positive, Kandler stressed that he’s feeling better after a brutal summer of radiation and chemotherapy, but his recovery is more of a five-year prognosis.

 

Junior college baseball is a two-year deal, with turnover a seasonal progression and pitching concerns a never-ending toll road.

“Honestly, we’ve still got to get a couple more,” Kandler said, noting the time for that would be during the holiday break before the start of the semester in January.

 

Another feature of this recruiting crop is that there could be creativity involved with folding over position players into a pitching staff. That means newcomers such as Malik Spratling of Leesburg, Georgia, and Brett Wisely, younger brother of Alec Wisely from Jacksonville could be called on in the field and on the mound, and the same for holdover Eli Taylor, used exclusively in the field in 2016.

 

“And that’s all right,” Kandler said. “It’s a small roster. In our situation you can have only 22 players.”

 

Among them are Division I transfers Jake Rice of Tennessee Tech, Cory Heffron of Wright State and Ben Rowdon of Stetson.

 

Rice is a 6-foot-1 left-handed pitcher, Heffron a 6-foot catcher and Rowdon a 5-11 infielder. Half the roster is 6-foot or taller, but Kandler said that merely is the result of athletes being larger these days and size wasn’t a focus during recruiting.

 

Heffron and Dustin Rogers join holdover Josh Nowak behind the plate which could turn that into a position of strength.

 

Kandler thinks that Wisely might be an even better hitter than his brother, although a left-handed version. He called Clay Kelley of Elba, Alabama, an outfielder with great speed and said Spratling is a raw talent, but has impressive tools.

 

Expect to see Justin Greene of Carmel, Indiana, unless he plays his way out of the picture. Infielder Britton Hall of Williston, pitcher Peyton Knight of Glennville, Georgia, and infielder Landon Seymour of Havana also are new to the mix.

 

Sophomore Logan Foster of Bozeman wasn’t on the roster last season and is a right-handed pitcher sure to get a look.

 

As always, however, the sophomores who were in the program last season will have to lead the way. That’s the nature of two-year programs.

Kandler hopes his next twist is a little gentler than the past three months.

 

“I just had my feeding tube removed, but eating takes me forever,” Kandler said. “Theoretically you can never say you’re out of the woods with this, but I do feel like I have the worst of the treatment behind.”

 

Gulf Coast will continue as a work in progress, much like the parking lot and current surroundings of Bill Frazier Field from ongoing construction at the college in relation to the flyover project on U.S. 98.

 

The team will then reconvene in January to embark on the 2018 season.

 

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