Mathis steps down after one season at Tigers’ helm

By Maurice Patton

Kennedy Mathis, who in his first season as baseball coach at Mt. Pleasant led the Tigers to their first double-digit win campaign in seven years, has abruptly resigned from that position.

“An opportunity came up for me that I couldn’t pass up,” said Mathis, who will enter the business sector after rallying his first team from a slow start to within one win of a berth in the Region 5-A Tournament. “When I sat down and mapped everything out, it just ultimately made the most sense for me and my family.

“In making that decision, I thought a lot about the guys and what we built in a year. That made it extremely tough. It was very, very difficult.”

Succeeding Eddie Bassham in the veteran’s third stint as coach at the school, Mathis – a former Independence assistant who played at Forrest and at Columbia State – guided the Tigers from a 3-8 debut to the No. 2 seed in the District 10-A postseason tourney, a loss in the consolation finals to eventual tournament titlist Richland and an 11-17 finish.

“I thought he had a heck of a year. I told him that, straight up,” Mt. Pleasant principal Ryan Jackson said. “I’m proud of him, proud of that work. It’s a tough loss, not only for Mt. Pleasant baseball but for the school …

“One thing he did do was create a foundation. Even though it was only one year, this young guy came in and created a solid foundation. Whoever we wind up getting in there, we can now point to this microcosm of success we had in this one year, a team that is very solid with some up-and-coming players that are ripe for greatness.”

Mt. Pleasant featured just one senior, all-district selection Ryan Clark, and counts rising senior Gaven Whitehead – who struck out 16 in an April 19 three-hit shutout victory against Santa Fe to help secure that district runner-up finish – among its returnees for 2022.

“I think you just point to the good work that was done, the foundation that was built,” Jackson said. “You just hope somebody saw the work Kennedy did and says ‘I’d like to build on top of that’. That’s the hope right now.

“Kennedy played a strong part in threading some of those pieces together to maximize potential. He saw the potential in some of those guys and literally maximized it.”

Mathis creates at least the fourth coaching change from the 2020-21 school year for Mt. Pleasant.

Bronson Bradley was dismissed in November after seven seasons as football coach and replaced by ex-Blackman coach Kit Hartsfield, while both basketball coaches – Chris Carney with the boys, Amy Odom with the girls – were relieved of their duties in April, each after two years in their positions. Hayden Pentecost has been named girls coach, with the boys search still ongoing.

Jackson admitted a bit of dismay with the latest development.

“That one stings,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of love for him. I hate to see him go, but we ultimately wish the very best for him.

“We’re on the hunt.”

Elsewhere in Maury County, coaching vacancies remain at Columbia Central (girls basketball, softball) and Culleoka (girls basketball) in addition to Mt. Pleasant.

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