The Columbia College baseball program originally existed as part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics from 1972-82.

That's when the program was laid to rest because of a lack of facilities. Now, in February, 2017, Columbia is rejoining the college baseball ranks for the first time in 35 years. The Cougars will also be using a local connection to do so as head coach Darren Munns and pitcher Gavin Jones are both graduates of Mexico High School.

"Gavin’s control as a pitcher is his greatest asset," said Munns. "He can improve his strength and endurance in our off-season program, which starts in two weeks."

Standing in at 5-foot-9, Jones joins the Cougars as a junior. That's because he began his post-prep career at the community college level.

"Gavin’s experience at McHenry County will benefit him because they have a very strong junior college program," Munns said. "He will provide veteran leadership to our program, and will be an asset as an experienced reliever."

According to the National Junior College Athletic Association website, last season as a sophomore hurler, Jones went 3-1 with one save and 14 strikeouts in 17 innings pitched during nine appearances. He also had no errors and three assists in the field.

"I saw Gavin originally in high school. He played at McHenry County CC, who I have signed players from in the past," said Munns. "Gavin will most likely pitch out of our bullpen."

As a right-handed freshman in 2015, Jones made five appearances for McHenry County and went 3-1. He also struck out nine batters and posted a 2.03 earned run average in 13.1 innings of work.

"I’m ecstatic to have Gavin in our program at Columbia College. He is a great citizen, solid student, and will aid our pitching staff," Munns said.

The Cougars return to prominence officially launched Feb. 2-4 in McKenzie, Tennessee at Bethel University, on Feb. 11-12 Columbia is at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee and on Feb. 24-25 the team is in Conway, Arkansas, to face Central Baptist College.

Columbia will compete as a member of the American Midwest Conference this year. Other teams inn the league include Williams Baptist College, William Woods University, Stephens College, St. Louis College of Pharmacy, Park University, Missouri Baptist University, Lyon College, Lindenwood University- Belleville, Harris-Stowe State University, Hannibal-LaGrange University, Freed-Hardeman University and Central Baptist College.

Details: www.amcsportsonline.com, www.ncjaa.org or www.columbiacougars.com.