By Robert Wilson
Chris Peden was a part of two state baseball championships as an assistant at Madison Central. Now, he wants to bring one to Madison Central’s rival as a head coach.
Peden has been named the new head coach at Germantown High, replacing Brian Hardy who is stepping down to spend more time with his family. He will remain at Germantown in various roles in the athletic department, helping with administrative duties and fundraising, in addition to teaching Driver’s Education.
Peden comes to Germantown after six seasons at head coach at another Madison County school, Ridgeland.
The former Seminary High, Jones County Junior College and Southern Miss catcher had a 93-78 record and reached the MHSAA Class 5A semifinals once and the quarterfinals three times at Ridgeland. Peden was an assistant at Madison Central for eight seasons, helping the Jaguars to two state championships and two state runner-up finishes before going to Ridgeland. Germantown athletic director Gregg Perry hired Peden at Madison Central in 2007 and they won a state title together in 2009.
“We are extremely excited to have Coach Peden as our next head coach,” Perry said. “Chris is a product of experience and hard work. I can’t wait to see where he takes our program. Chris has the reputation of getting the most out of his players. He instills the belief that they will be successful through preparation and hard work.”
“I am very excited about moving to one of the premier programs in the state,” Peden said. “Germantown has a great tradition and a very talent rich area to draw from. Coach Hardy did a great job building this program to what it is today. We live in this community and have been waiting for an opportunity like this. I loved Ridgeland and the kids gave me everything they had for six years. I could not turn down a chance to compete at the highest of high school baseball in Mississippi. I want to bring a toughness and a work ethic second to none to Germantown. Coach Perry and Coach Hardy are great friends of mine, and I can’t think of anyone better to work for than Coach Perry. Being an assistant at Madison Central, I know what it takes day in day out at the 6A level. I have worked with some of the best coaches in the state and from them have made my own coaching style. We like to play fast and have more energy and out hustle people between the lines. We will be a blue-collar kind of team, built on hard work. I think with the talent we have in our community; we will be competing for the 6A state title in the near future. That’s the goal and we are already working on achieving that.”
Peden was a catcher on Seminary’s state championship team in 1996. He was the bullpen catcher at Southern Miss when the Golden Eagles won 40 games and played in the Alabama regional in 2000.
“Coach Corky Palmer was my coach at Southern Miss, and he made me want to be a coach,” Peden said. “I still wear No. 44 in his honor. He taught me a lot about the game. Coach Palmer knew I was going to be a coach.”
Germantown has five returning starters from this year’s team, which finished 18-11 and reached the second round of the 6A playoffs. Junior pitcher-outfielder and Pearl River Community College commitment JP Robertson, junior catcher and Meridian CC commitment Hampton Ross, junior outfielder Lawson Gardner, junior designated hitter-infielder Andrew Dinkelacker and sophomore shortstop Jackson Hood are the returning starters. Robertson was Germantown’s ace with a 9-1 record, a 1.04 earned run average and 73 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings and hit .320 with two doubles and two home runs this season.
Hardy is the only head baseball coach Germantown has ever had. He was an assistant at Madison Central and started the Germantown program 11 seasons ago. Hardy had a 220-91-2 record (a 70.7 winning percentage) with five division championships. He has had 21 all-state players, 49 college players and 80 all-division players at Germantown. Hardy was the division Coach of the Year six times and was an All-Star Game coach in 2015. He led the Mavericks to the third round of the playoffs four times during his time at Germantown.