Tanner Burns Auburn baseball (copy)

Decatur's Tanner Burns (32) is a junior at Auburn and expected to be one of the top pitchers in the country this year. [WADE RACKLEY/AUBURN ATHLETICS]

When the calendar flips to February, that can mean only one thing: Softball and baseball are just around the corner.

Next Thursday is the official first day of high school baseball and softball seasons. Some colleges have already started.

The Calhoun Warhawks open the season Friday. The softball team travels to Dothan for the Chipola Tournament. The baseball team will be in Andalusia for two games vs. Lurleen B. Wallace.

The SEC baseball schedule begins Feb. 14. Auburn hosts Illinois-Chicago. Alabama entertains Northeastern. Missouri is traveling to Alabama for a weekend series at Jacksonville State.

Decatur’s Tanner Burns is starting his junior season at Auburn being touted as one of the best college pitchers in the country. He’s expected to be a high selection in the Major League Baseball draft this summer. Burns is joined on the Auburn pitching staff by sophomore Garrett Wade of Hartselle.

Athens’ Jacob McNairy will be looking to contribute to the Alabama pitching staff this season as a sophomore.

The SEC softball season begins this weekend. Alabama will have two local players this season. Athens’ Mary Greg Anderson and Ardmore’s Karla Hice are both freshmen. Alabama opens in Tallahassee with games vs. Florida State and North Carolina.

New era at Calhoun

For the first time in 20 years, Nancy Keenum is not coaching the Calhoun softball team. Keenum remains as the school’s athletic director, but Bart Stephenson is the new softball coach. He previously coached softball at several stops in high school, including at Hatton.

“Fall camp was great and we are anticipating that we can carry over some of the momentum we gained in the fall over to the spring season,” Stephenson said.

The Warhawks’ roster has several local players. Brooklyn Wallace is a sophomore infielder from Hartselle. Asia Garth is a sophomore outfielder from Austin.

Among the freshmen, Hartselle’s Emily Cowart and Priceville’s Destinee Hargrove will be the catchers. Ardmore’s Mackenzie McCormick is scheduled to start in left field. West Morgan’s Emari Hutto plays second base and Hartselle’s Morgyn Sparkman is on the pitching staff.

Cody Gaskill is beginning his second season as Calhoun’s baseball coach. The Warhawks will be young with 22 freshmen.

“How quickly we can adapt to the college game will be a huge factor to our success,” Gaskill said. “If we are able to minimize mistakes and play the game the right way, I think our club can do some special things this season.”

The roster has several area players beginning with sophomores Trace Lentz of Decatur Heritage, Sam Watkins of Austin and Jason Hogan of Ardmore. Lentz was a catcher in high school, who converted to pitcher at Calhoun. Watkins plays in the outfield. Hogan is an infielder who transferred from Tennessee Tech.

Among the freshmen are Collin Partain and Easton Williamson of Austin, Tyler Wagnon of East Limestone and Bill Williams of Ardmore. Partain and Williams are pitchers. Williamson and Wagnon are middle infielders. Williamson is expected to start at second base.

The home opener at Frickie Park for both Calhoun teams is Tuesday. The softball team hosts Motlow State at 1 p.m. The baseball team hosts Cleveland State at 2 p.m.

 david.elwell@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2395. Twitter @DD_DavidElwell.

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