Cleveland Community College releases 54-game 2021 baseball schedule that includes 20 home contests at Forest City’s McNair Field
By Richard Walker
When Gene Bowles was hired as Cleveland Community College’s first head baseball coach in June 2019, he couldn’t wait for the spring 2021 season to begin.
On Monday – and after COVID-19 restrictions have altered many of Bowles’ plans – that became even clearer as the school announced the schedule for its first baseball season.
“We need to be full throttle,” Bowles said. “Are we where I want us to be? No. It’s definitely a marathon. We’re playing 54 games. We have a long ways to go as a first-year program and having a lot of freshman who have never played a full college season will make it a challenge.
“We’re excited to open up Jan. 30 and I’m very optimistic we’ll be clicking on all cylinders.”
Bowles currently has a 44-player roster that will compete for the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Region X championship this spring. That includes several former local products, many of whom could have huge roles in the Yetis’ first season.
“We were fortunate to be able to play in the fall,” Bowles said of a fall schedule that included games against NJCAA Division I Florence-Darlington Tech and nearby league rival Catawba Valley Community College of Hickory. “Every team in North Carolina had around 70 to 80 guys. We had 75 show up for the fall.”
Among the local products are former Crest High standout Riley Cash and Michael Greene, former Burns High standouts Avery Bridges and Zachary Wilson, former East Lincoln standout Noah Sigmon and former North Gaston standout Dylan Arms.
When the Yetis begin their home schedule in March, they’ll play in Forest City at McNair Field to mark a homecoming for four other players – former Chase standouts Jack McKinney, Bailey McGinnis and Carter Hensley and former East Rutherford standout Hunter Shew.
“We’re really excited about Riley and Michael swinging the bats and excited to see what Bailey and Hunter and Avery can do on the mound,” Bowles said of the former local standout players.
The biggest challenge so far has been finding a practice field; The Yetis have used the high school fields at Crest and Kings Mountain and plan to use Burns in the future in addition to practicing on their school’s softball field.
A 2009 University of Maryland graduate who received his masters in athletic administration from Western Kentucky in 2018, the 34-year-old Bowles came to Cleveland Community College with several years of coaching experience.
A former independent league pitcher – in 2010 for the New York Empires of the New York State League – Bowles has coached at Annapolis, Md., St. Mary’s High School, Annapolis High School, for the Annapolis American Legion Post 7 team, for NCAA Division III Marymount University, Va., Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Md., NAIA Bethany College of Lindsborg, Kansas, NCAA Division I Dartmouth of the Ivy League and for the Brewster Whitecaps of the prestigious Cape Cod summer League.
“I was coaching in the Cape Cod league in Massachusetts and I finished up there and really started recruiting,” Bowles said of the time he was hired as Yetis’ head coach in June 2019. “Before that ended, I reached out to every high school coach in Cleveland County and the travel coaches in the area and other coaches. From there, it just kind of took off.
“I wanted to get the better local kids and I’ve also recruited some players from outside of the state. Our roster is about 50 percent North Carolina and 50 percent out of state so we have a good mix if players.”
Bowles thinks the Cleveland Community College area will afford the opportunity to build a successful baseball program.
“It’s a sports community and a sports town,” Bowles said of Shelby. “It’s obviously got a great deal of interest in baseball based on the Legion World Series being here. Our plan is to have local kids playing as well as getting the backing of the local community.”
The Yetis’ 57-game schedule begins with a two-opponent doubleheader on Jan. 30 at USC-Union and sees Cleveland Community College play its first 21 games on the road. The home opener is a March 6 noon doubleheader against Patrick Henry Community College of Martinsville, Va.
The Cleveland Community College 2021 baseball schedule:
Jan. 30 Bryant & Stratton, 9 a.m. (at USC-Union)
Jan. 30 at USC-Union, 3 p.m.
Jan. 31 Bryant & Stratton, 10 a.m. (at USC-Union)
Jan. 31 at USC-Union, 2 p.m.
Feb. 6 at Florence-Darlington Tech, noon DH
Feb. 7 at USC-Sumter, 1 p.m. DH
Feb. 10 at Florence-Darlington Tech, 4 p.m.
Feb. 13 at Brunswick CC, noon DH
Feb. 14 at Brunswick CC, 1 p.m. DH
Feb. 20 at Bryant & Stratton, 11 a.m.
Feb. 20 Lackawanna, 1 p.m. (at Bryant & Stratton)
Feb. 21 Lackawanna, 11 a.m. (at Bryant & Stratton)
Feb. 21 at Bryant & Stratton, 3 p.m.
Feb. 24 at USC-Union, 4 p.m.
Feb. 25 at Caldwell CC&TI, 4 p.m.
March 2 at Spartanburg Methodist, 1 p.m. DH
March 6 Patrick Henry CC, noon DH
March 7 Patrick Henry CC, 1 p.m.
March 9 at Rockingham CC, 4 p.m.
March 13 at Guilford Tech CC, noon DH
March 14 at Guilford Tech CC, 1 p.m.
March 17 USC-Salkehatchie, 4 p.m.
March 20 at Fayetteville Tech, noon DH
March 21 at Fayetteville Tech, 1 p.m.
March 24 Walters State, 4 p.m.
March 27 Wake Tech CC, Noon DH
March 28 Wake Tech CC, 1 p.m.
March 30 Rockingham CC, 4 p.m.
April 2 at Catawba Valley CC, 4 p.m. DH
April 3 at Catawba Valley CC, noon
April 10 at Patrick Henry CC, noon DH
April 11 at Patrick Henry CC, 1 p.m.
April 14 at USC-Salkehatchie, 4 p.m.
April 17 Guilford Tech CC, noon DH
April 18 Guilford Tech CC, 1 p.m.
April 21 Walters State, 4 p.m.
April 24 Fayetteville Tech, noon DH
April 25 Fayetteville Tech, 1 p.m.
May 1 at Wake Tech CC, noon DH
May 2 at Wake Tech CC, 1 p.m.
May 8 Catawba Valley CC, noon DH
May 9 Catawba Valley CC, 1 p.m.
May 11-16 Region X playoffs
May 22-28 NJCAA Division II World Series (Enid, Okla.)
Home games at McNair Field, Forest City