It’s a good thing Tanner Huddleston and Logan Robbins are close buddies.
The two former George County baseball standouts — now Jones County Junior College teammates — are going to be seeing PLENTY of one another after both committed to play baseball at Louisiana Tech last month.
They’ll make their pledges official Wednesday when they sign with the Bulldogs.
“It means a lot. That’s my best friend,” said Huddleston, a power-hitting third baseman who slugged 12 homers with 91 RBIs and a .392 batting average as a freshman on JCJC’s national championship team last season. “He’s like a brother to me.”
Robbins, who redshirted two years ago while recovering from Tommy John surgery, feels similarly.
“It’s great. We played for three years in high school together, now two years here and maybe another two after that,” the redshirt sophomore said of his roommate. “It’s a big thing. We’re always together. We do everything together.”
Both former Rebels were recruited by South Alabama and other regional Division I schools but opted for Louisiana Tech because, interestingly enough, Ruston, Louisiana, reminded them most of home.
“It’s a small town, kind of what I like and where I’m from,” Huddleston said. “And a good program that’s been winning a lot. Seems like a good fit.”
Added Robbins: “It’s kind of a small town area, like George County. The facilities are top notch. All the coaches are good. The campus is nice.”
Speaking of coaches, there’s an obvious draw to La. Tech in that former JCJC (and Gulfport High) coach Christian Ostrander, is now the Bulldogs’ associate head coach.
“That’s one of the big reasons to go back and work with him,” Robbins said. “He taught me a lot of stuff.”
Back to normal
As a senior, Robbins formed one of the better pitching rotations in the state along with Chicago Cubs draft pick Justin Steele. He posted a 4-1 record with a 1.17 ERA, striking out 69 against 19 walks in 48 innings.
“I think he is the truest pitcher of the three Robbins (older brother Mason and younger brother Walker, both two-way prep players who are now hitters in Minor League Baseball). He’s a true pitcher. At one point he had five consecutive complete games without allowing a run his senior year,” GCHS coach Brandon Davis said. “He just understood the game of baseball and how to compete. Him and tanner are a lot alike, they’re not real rah-rah guys. They’re real quiet and get the job done.
Robbins opted to sign with JCJC and eventually had surgery in Nov. 2014. It was a long and grueling recovery for Robbins. After sitting out fall ball while he rehabbed, Robbins admittedly was nervous when he made his debut Feb. 14 against Jefferson (Missouri).
The southpaw earned the win, striking out five against one run in three innings. He finished the year with a 6-0 record, 4.70 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings.
“I was worried the surgery maybe wouldn’t work because it’s not a sure thing,” Robbins said. “Every time now, it’s better than ever. I feel great. My velocity is back where I need it to be.”
Robbins said his velocity sits between 88 and 90 miles per hour. He mixes his fastball with a changeup and a slider he recently added as an out pitch.
Back and off of a pitch count, Robbins expects his statistics to improve drastically as a sophomore this season.
Continuing to mash
Huddleston’s early success at college is no surprise to Davis, who told the Sun Herald when his versatile infielder committed to JCJC that he had DI potential.
“Tanner was always a big, strong athletic kid. At the same time, he’s a baseball guy. He’s extremely even keeled,” Davis said. “His temperament bodes well with his ability. He does not get in his own way.”
Huddleston doesn’t lack confidence, but admittedly his success even caught him a little off guard.
“I wasn’t surprised because I knew what I could do, but I didn’t think my numbers would be that good in the Mississippi league, which has the best JUCO system in the country,” he said. “ I didn’t doubt myself. I set goals before season and about half-way through they were just about met.”