POPLARVILLE – Michael Avalon is entering his first season as head baseball coach at Pearl River Community College.
Avalon, 34, had been the head coach at Mississippi Delta Community College the previous five seasons, taking the Trojans to the MACJC playoffs four times, and was an assistant coach at East Central Community College for five seasons prior to taking the job at MDCC.
Under Avalon’s guidance, the Trojans were consistently among the best in the state and in the nation in team grade-point average, finishing either first or second in the MACJC for all five years of his tenure.
He also raised more than $200,000 for the MDCC program, resulting in a number of significant upgrades to the facility on the Moorhead campus. Through 2015, he has sent 36 players to four-year programs, including 12 Division I players.
Avalon, 34, is a native of Jackson and played high school ball as a pitcher for Tommy Groves at Forest Hill High School.
He played two seasons at Holmes Community College (2001-02) and was a second team All-State selection as a sophomore. He was named to the HCC Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
After leaving Holmes, Avalon spent a year at Lincoln Memorial University (Tenn.), then completed his playing career in 2004 at West Alabama. He served two seasons as graduate assistant at UWA, helping the Tigers reach the NCAA Division II regionals both seasons. West Alabama was Gulf South Conference champion in 2005 and GSC runners-up in 2006.
While at East Central, he helped the Warriors to the MACJC championship in 2007, and three appearances in the NHCAA Region 23 Tournament.
His overall coaching record at Mississippi Delta was 115-111 and 69-61 in conference play.
Avalon is married to the former Kayla Brooke of Kosciusko, Miss., and they have two sons, Brooks (7) and Tucker (5), and a daughter, Harper (4).
Rhyne Hughes is back at PRCC as an assistant after a circuitous path that included a brief stint in the major leagues.
Hughes was named as assistant coach not long after new head coach Michael Avalon was hired.
Hughes, 32, was a standout first baseman at Picayune High School before his stellar career at PRCC in 2003 and 2004, earning NJCAA All-America honors as a sophomore. In 2004, he led the Wildcats to the MACJC State Tournament championship and a berth in the NJCAA Division 2 World Series.
He signed a scholarship offer with Ole Miss, but never played for the Rebels after the Tampa Bay Rays selected him in the eighth round of the MLB Amateur Draft.
Hughes spent five seasons in the Rays organization before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles in August, 2009.That was the year his career took a big step, as he spent much of that season in Class AAA, with Durham and Norfolk in the International League.
He batted a combined .279 with 25 home runs and 79 RBIs.
The Orioles liked what they saw enough that they promoted him to the majors on April 24, 2010, where he debuted against the Boston Red Sox.
Hughes appeared in 14 games for the Orioles, making 51 plate appearances and batting .213 before being sent back to Triple-A, where he spent the remainder of the 2010 season.He spent three more seasons in pro baseball, finishing his career with Binghamton in the New York Mets organization. Altogether, in nine minor-league seasons, Hughes batted .272 with 107 homers and 451 RBIs.
After finishing his professional career, Hughes still needed two more years of college to obtain his bachelor’s degree, so he enrolled at Southeastern Louisiana, graduating with the Class of 2016.While at SLU, he spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons as a student assistant under longtime friend Matt Riser, with whom he played both at Picayune and PRCC, as well as former Wildcat coach Jay Artigues, now the athletic director at SLU.
Anthony Izzio comes to PRCC after two seasons as an assistant coach at East Mississippi Community College.
Izzio was a four-year letter winner at Vancleave High School, where he was 20-4 as a pitcher his junior and senior seasons.
He played two seasons for Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, posting an 11-7 record with 128 strikeouts and 39 walks. As a sophomore in 2011, Izzio was 7-4 to earn All-MACJC first-team honors.
From Gulf Coast, Izzio transferred to the University of South Alabama, where he was a stellar 8-1 with a career 3.41 earned-run average in his two seasons with the Jaguars. In 20 appearances at USA, he had 67 strikeouts and 23 walks.
As a senior in 2013, Izzio helped South Alabama to a 43-20 mark, its best season in 12 years and a berth in the NCAA Starkville Regional.
After graduating from USA in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in business, Izzio spent one season as pitching coach at Spanish Fort (Ala.) High School, helping the 39-6 Toros win the Alabama Class 5A state title and finish No. 11 nationally in the MaxPreps Xcellent 50 rankings.
In his first season at EMCC in 2015, Izzio helped the Lions post a 29-18 record and a third-place finish in the MACJC State Tournament.
Sam Roberson is in his first season as an assistant coach at PRCC. Roberson is a native of Dallas, Texas who played for former Wildcat Matt Riser at Southeastern Louisiana. A 2016 graduate of SLU, he served the Lions last spring as a graduate assistant.