Former Nettleton ace Coleton Ausbern was able to transition into the same role at the next level for Jones College, finishing out this past season with a nearly undefeated record.
Ausbern ended his freshman season of college with an 8-1 record, not taking his first loss until his final game of the season. He racked up 72 strikeouts as the Bobcats got all the way to the NJCAA Region 23 Tournament.
“I have to give it to my teammates. The hitters did their jobs, and the defense played really well behind me,” Ausbern said. “In high school, I had a lot of strikeouts, and this year, it was not so much. It was a lot of defensive work.”
Ausbern started out the year coming on in relief before making his first start on March 1. In his final eight games of the season, he started six of them, becoming one of the Bobcats’ top starting pitchers.
“From the get go, I wanted to start. That motivated me every time I went out and came out of the bullpen that I could prove that I should be a starter,” Ausbern said. “I think my mentality changed, going up there and knowing and believing that my stuff is better than the hitters every time.”
Ausbern said his fastball topped out at 91 or 92 miles per hour, and he’s also worked on his secondary pitches as well.
“My fastball has still been really good, and I have gained a little bit of velocity this year,” he said. “I picked up a changeup, and that’s been a difference maker.”
He named beating Hinds in the playoffs as his favorite game of the year as he went the distance with the Bobcats facing elimination.
“It was a win or go home game, and we got it done in five innings,” Ausbern said. “I think I gave up just three hits.”
Jones started out on a tear to begin the season, winning their first 10 games. They beat Hinds in that three-game series in the playoffs before falling to Pearl River and Mississippi Gulf Coast in the Region 23 Tournament at ICC.
The loss to Gulf Coast was also Ausbern’s first loss of the season, but he allowed just two runs and struck out six in that game.
“We started out really well, and then we kind of got in a rough patch. We lost a few games to some teams we shouldn’t have lost to,’ Ausbern said. “We should have won both games we lost in the regionals too, but it happens.”
Ausbern, a multi-sport athlete in high school, said it helped being able to focus solely on pitching in college.
“In high school, it was always time to pick up a football and go play or pick up a baseball and go play,” he said. “It was never practice before the season and during the season. It helped me a lot. It’s really different from high school to college. It’s every day practice, sometimes from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. some days. It’s a grind. Game days are a lot of fun though because it’s just baseball and no class. You wake up and hang out with your buddies, and then it’s time to go down to the field and play.”
Ausbern said the level of competition also opened his eyes.
“At first I didn’t have a clue with JUCO because it’s not Division I,” he said. “I thought it would be a lot easier than it was, but you have guys getting drafted out of JUCO. It’s some really good hitters.”
Last summer, Ausbern won a legion baseball state championship with the Tupelo 49ers, but he’s not able to play any summer ball this year due to battling some shoulder problems.
“It’s really different not playing, and if it were up to me, I would have played. I had a little bit of shoulder problems, and the coaches held me back,” Ausbern said. “I have been going to the weight room every day and running and conditioning and getting stronger.”
Part of skipping out on summer ball is so Ausbern can be at full strength for the Bobcats’ fall baseball season. He’s hoping to catch the eyes of some coaches at the next level and play past Jones.
“Hopefully I will get the opportunity to go play somewhere,” he said. “I’ve heard from a few schools so far, and I’m just seeing how it plays out. I missed out last fall with my arm troubles, but hopefully I can do well this fall.”
With plenty of talent returning and coming in for the Bobcats, Ausbern said he believes they can go further next season.
“I think we can go all the way. We should be ranked in the top five this year. We had two coaches leave, including my pitching coach, so it will be different. I’m excited to see who we can get, and I think the players are up for it,” Ausbern said. “I believe we have a really good bond as a team. I don’t know too much about the talent we have coming in. We have Hayden Harris from Pontotoc is the only guy I know, so that’s a really big bat. I’m not with the other guys too much, but I know our pitchers are up for it. We have some really good pitchers returning, and I think we should have a good staff. I’m hoping I can still be one of our top starters.”
Personally, Ausbern has one big goal on his mind.
“I’d like to get that one loss out of that column. I think I can do it,” he said.