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STELLAR NIGHT... In front of a sold out crowd of 61,005 at VaughtHemingway Stadium, Ole Miss erased three years of frustration against Miss. State with a 41-27 victory in the 109th Egg Bowl. Ole Miss sophomore wide receiver Donte Moncrief was the star of the night finishing the game with seven catches for a career-high 173 yards to go along with three touchdown receptions. Moncrief ’s 173 yards receiving are the fourth-most in a single game in Ole Miss history, and the Raleigh, Miss. native is now tied for the most touchdown receptions in a single season with 10. Sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace finished 15-of-22 for 294 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Junior running back Jeff Scott led Ole Miss on the ground with 28 carries for 111 yards. Junior cornerback Charles Sawyer led Ole Miss with nine total tackles, including eight solo tackles and three pass breakups. Sophomore defensive end C.J. Johnson had a pair of sacks for the Rebels, and Nkemdiche had three total tackles and an interception, his third of the season. 2 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE


Photo by Greg Pevey, Mississippi Sports Magazine

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Photos by Greg Pevey, Mississippi Sports Magazine

EGG-STATIC... Ole Miss fans flooded the field to celebrate with players after the Rebels ended a three game losing streak against Miss. State on November 24, 2012. For Ole Miss, the win was extra special. Over the last two seasons, the Rebels had won just six games combined. The Rebel’s win over Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4 SEC) gave the Rebels their sixth win on the season, and propelled the young team to an invitation to play in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham on January 5, 2013. MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 5


>>> MSM | MISSISSIPPI SEEN Photo by Greg Pevey, Mississippi Sports Magazine Bo Wallace pictured with his mother, Trina and father, Bill.

THE WINNER IS... Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace, fresh off of leading his Rebels to a 41-24 Egg Bowl victory over Mississippi State, won the C Spire Conerly Trophy on November 27, 2012 as the Magnolia state’s top college football player in 2012. Wallace, who has led the Rebels to a 6-6 record this year and their first bowl berth since 2009, passed for 2,843 yards with 19 touchdowns, ran for another 363 yards and eight touchdowns and scored a touchdown on a 25-yard pass reception while logging a cumulative 144.20 quarterback rating this year, one of the best in the SEC and among the top 40 in the nation. Wallace started every game for Ole Miss this year, and his 3,206 total offensive yards make him only the second player in school history to eclipse 3,000 yards in a season behind Eli Manning, who reached that total twice during his Ole Miss career. Wallace’s eight rushing touchdowns are the most by a Rebel QB since Eli’s father, Archie, in 1969. 6 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE


Photo courtesy, Mississippi State Sports Information

TOP DAWG... Mississippi State All-American defensive back Johnthan Banks (Maben, MS) was named the 2012 Jim Thorpe Award winner on December 6th at the Atlantic Dance Hall at the Boardwalk Hotel and Resort at Walt Disney World. The award, given annually to the top defensive back in college football, is the first individual national award for an MSU player in the 113-year history of the program. Banks, also named a Walter Camp All-American, took home the award after posting 59 tackles, seven pass breakups, four interceptions, 2.0 tackles for loss, a fumble forced and a fumble recovery in 2012. Among active players in the FBS, the senior team captain ranks first in career interception yards (320), is tied for third with 16 career interceptions, is tied for sixth in interceptions returned for touchdowns (3), ranks eighth in interceptions per game (0.32) and is tied for eighth with 26 career pass breakups. MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 7


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TIMES TEN... South Panola extended its MHSAA record with its 10th football state championship, beating Brandon 31-23 in the 6A title game at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium on November 30, 2012. Tevis Flowers’ interception in the end zone with 43 seconds remaining sealed it for the Tigers, who have won eight of the last 10 championships in the state’s largest classification. South Panola (13-2) also won titles in 1993 and 1998, before five straight from 2003-07 and two in a row in 2009 and 2010.

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Photo by Greg Pevey, Mississippi Sports Magazine

BACK TO THE TOP... After suffering through a dismal 0-12 season under 1st year coach Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss Director of Athletics Jeff Hammond announced on December 11, the hiring of Todd Monken as the school’s 20th football coach. Monken comes to Southern Miss after serving the last two seasons as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Oklahoma State. Under Monken in 2012, the Cowboys ranked among the nation’s top 10 nationally in scoring offense (4th/44.7 ppg), total offense (5th/548.9 ypg) and passing offense (7th/333.4 ypg). In the last two seasons, OSU has scored more than 50 points 10 times, broke the 60-point mark in five contests, the 70-point mark twice and the 80-point plateau once in just two years with Monken calling the plays. - Photo by James Pugh MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 11


Life Is A Sport. www.mssportsmagazine.com

Volume 5, Issue 4 BASEBALL ISSUE January/February 2013 Published by Pevey Publishing, LLC Publishers Greg & Mendy Pevey Featured Columnists Jake Adams, Rick Cleveland, Derrick Guin, Jake Wimberly Contributing Writers John Davis, Ryne Hancock, Paul Jones, Lanny Mixon, Chuck Stinson, Mark Stowers, Jon Wiener

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Contributing Photographers Bobby McDuffie, Greg Pevey, Sports Information Offices: Blue Mountain College, Miss. State, Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Delta State, Miss. College, Belhaven University, Millsaps College, Alcorn State, Jackson State, MS Valley State, William Carey University Advertising Sales Greg Pevey publisher@mssportsmagazine.com

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B A S E B A L L

Photo by Mississippi Sports Magazine

P R E V I E W

The action begins on Page 30

CONTENTS...

COMMENTARY

FEATURES

18 WATERS FINDS A HOME IN CANADA Former Jackson Prep star Swayze Waters finds foot, home in the CFL

20 ALLEN BLACKWELL Jackson native is striving to become Mississippi’s first Winter Olympian

24 CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? EMCC’s Buddy Stephens turns football program into a national power

28 ON THE RECORD: SCOTT STRICKLIN MSU Athletic Director has a vision of maintaining consistent success across the board

32 IRON MAN

14 REBEL NATION: JAKE ADAMS It’s never too early to dream of next year 15 THE DAWGHOUSE: JAKE WIMBERLY A little perspective goes a long way

Bulldog pitcher Luis Pollorena overcomes leukemia as a child to become a huge piece of the puzzle for John Cohen’s Diamond Dawgs

16 TO THE TOP: DERRICK GUIN New leader found in Monken

40 DOUBLE DUTY

72 RICK CLEVELAND Remembering Ol’ Diz

Ole Miss’ Jake Gibbs was the states first two-sport All-American for the Rebels on the gridiron and on the baseball diamond

To Contact MSM > LETTERS, STORY IDEAS AND PHOTO SUBMISSIONS • Email MSM at publisher@ mssportsmagazine.com or mail to Mississippi Sports Magazine, 405 Knights Cove West, Brandon, Mississippi 39047. Letters should include writer’s full name, address and home phone number and may be edited for clarity and space.

WHAT’S NEXT... March/April - Recruiting Analysis/Year In Sports

We’ll take an in-depth look at each recruiting class and let you know how these players will impact your favorite team in 2013. We’ll also showcase the best in Mississippi sports photography from 2012. This issue will definitely be one you will not want to miss! MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 13


REBELNATION Follow Jake Adams on Twitter® @adamsjaken

It’s never too early to dream of next year BY JAKE ADAMS Featured Columnist

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hen it comes to football, it’s never too early to start thinking about next year, and that’s especially true when there’s a team worthy of excitement. For Ole Miss fans this off season should be a particular delight. After suffering through the gloom and doom of 2010 and 2011, the Hugh Freeze-led Rebels surpassed the expectations of just about everyone - myself included - in 2012, finishing 6-6, winning the Egg Bowl and capping it all with a trip to the BBVA Compass Bowl. What’s exciting is that Freeze was able to accomplish so much with such a young football team. The Rebels were just a 4th down conversion here or a defensive stop there from finished 9-3. With the entire nucleus of that young team returning next year, it’s not unreasonable to think some of those breaks will go Ole Miss’ way in 2013. The Rebels have already been included in early Top 25 discussions.. Every college football fan’s dream is to win and win big. This winter, spring and summer Ole Miss fans have reason enough to let their dreams run wild. DEFENSE In 2012 defensive coordinator Dave Wommack took over a young, depth-deprived, undersized defense that was at or near the bottom in nearly every statistical category in 2011. When the season was done, Wommack had converted it into a unit that ranked 7th in the SEC in total defense and 2nd in total sacks. Thanks to incoming talent and newly discovered stars in the making Wommack will have much more depth at his disposal. Nick Brassell, who Freeze calls “an NFL corner” will return from a one-year sabbatical in junior college to give the secondary an in-

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stant jolt. Brassell will take the side of the field opposite senior Charles Sawyer and Senquez Golson. Trae Elston and Cody Prewitt will be return to the safety positions and suddenly Ole Miss should have a defensive secondary that is among the SEC’s best. Up front, a freshman All-American named Issac Gross with a few more pounds on him will be reeking havoc in the middle, and C.J. Johnson and Channing Ward will have their ears pinned back at the defensive end positions. Johnson seems to get better and better with each and every game. He’s on the verge of a breakout year and 2013 could be just that for him. With a full off-season of conditioning and practice Ward will be more like the five-star defensive end who was signed a year ago, and there’s the possibility that a very talented freshman or two could be rotating in. This time last year Wommack was searching high and low for some linebackers. That won’t be the case this off-season. Roaming the field behind that improved line will be leading tackler and freshman All-American linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche along with senior middle linebacker Mike Marry. And don’t forget the return of team heart and soul D.T. Shackelford. After two years of rehab, Shackelford is expected to be back at full speed for spring drills. OFFENSE With a year of Hugh Freeze’s dynamic, up tempo offense complete and almost every starter returning the sky is the limit for Ole Miss on offense in 2013. Instead of learning the offense, this spring the Rebels will be trying to improve on it. As a result, Freeze hopes to be able to install even more and move at the up tempo pace he loves even more often. Bo Wallace, who in just one season already moved toward the top of the Ole Miss record books among names like Eli, Archie and Romaro and won the Conerly Trophy, returns for his junior season a seasoned SEC veteran.

Whereas this time last year Wallace was a juco transfer trying to learn a new offense, win the starting position and adjust to playing against a higher level of competition, Wallace will spend this off-season just getting better. That includes working on his decision making and trying to cut down on interceptions. If he can do that, there’s no reason not to expect an All-SEC type of season from Wallace, especially when you consider he’ll have an experienced offensive line in front of him, a deep backfield and a whole slough of proven receivers, including Donte Moncrief. The question marks should be gone now for Jeff Scott. After a slow beginning to 2012 he soon became the go-to back, rushing for 828 yards and 75 yards per game. Count on Scott to be the starter again in his senior season just ahead of a young, talented group hungry for carries including I’Tavius Mathers, Jaylen Walton and any one of several talented true freshmen. Depth should not be an issue in the backfield. The Rebels will be stacked with depth at wide receiver, too, with the return of future NFL player Donte Moncrief, an under-rated Vince Sanders and Ja-Mes Logan not to mention several promising young players. Up front, offensive line coach Matt Luke must only replace the departed A.J. Hawkins, and Luke thinks 6’3”, 314-pound senior Pat Junen is ready to step in. Luke’s offensive line should be set going into spring, and he’ll be able to spend his time focusing on building depth. There’s no reason not to have high expectations for this Ole Miss offense. SPECIAL TEAMS With Tyler Campbell and Andrew Ritter back from redshirt years at punter and place kicker, respectively, the Rebels should be noticeably improved on special teams, especially when it comes to field position. In short, on paper at least, Ole Miss appears loaded. It all sets up very nicely for a promising season. THE SCHEDULE As a result of SEC expansion and reshuffling 2013 is front-loaded with some tough away games followed by a very unusual sixgame home stand. The Rebels open at Vanderbilt have a home opener against Southeast Missouri and then go to Texas, Alabama and Auburn on consecutive Saturday’s. Expect Arkansas and Auburn to be slightly better SEE NEXT YEAR - Continued on Page 22


THEDAWGHOUSE Follow Jake Wimberly on Twitter® @NotJoeLeeDunn

A little perspective goes a long way BY JAKE WIMBERLY Featured Columnist

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ust moments after Ole Miss defeated Mississippi State 4124 in convincing fashion, Mississippi State fans went into melt-down mode on Twitter, Facebook and across the internet. The Bulldogs ended the regular season winning only one of their final five games, which included a beat-down from their rival after starting out 7-0. Bulldog fans across the country were mocked for their “we believe” campaign, the “our state” slogan and Dan Mullen’s comments of “we will never lose to that team again”; that team being Ole Miss. Fans of other schools called the Bulldogs “paper tigers,” “soft”, and picked Mississippi State’s schedule apart as they beat only one team with a winning record, that being Middle Tennessee. A team that finished the year 8-4 in the rugged SEC and bowl eligible for a third straight year was being crucified now by some of its own fan base. Questions arose from fans about potential coordinator changes to schematic changes, personnel, and many even questioned this team’s toughness and effort; and rightfully so after less than average performances against Ole Miss, Alabama, LSU, and Texas A&M. Mississippi State has the worst all time winning percentage of all active SEC schools at just over 48% and only one conference title, that being in 1941. To say that the Bulldogs lack in storied football history would be an understatement and most years the fans of Mississippi State would jump at the chance for an 8-4 season, but not this year. Fans wanted more and fans are hungry after watching their team complete three straight winning seasons; but before anyone wearing maroon and white gets too hungry, State fans should marvel at what Dan Mullen has done in four short years. The climate of today’s sports fan has shift-

ed to the “what have you done for me lately” mentality across the land and most fans get amnesia when looking at their own team. Many have a knee jerk reaction to what happens while in the moment. If their team wins, they expect even more. If their team loses, they want change. In Mississippi State’s case it is very important for their fans to take a step back, breathe and remember where your program was and understand where it is now. Just four years ago the Bulldogs were coming off a stretch that saw their program only achieve two winning seasons over a nine year stretch. The Bulldogs averaged four wins per year over that stretch and were the laughing stock of the SEC. A program that was headed nowhere fast, lost a ball game to Auburn in 2008 by the score of 3-2 and was shut out by Ole Miss 450. Former Athletic Director Greg Byrne, who in his first year decided to take the program in a different direction, turned to Florida and their up and coming offensive coordinator Dan Mullen to succeed Sylvester Croom. It did not take Byrne long to know he had found his man, said Byrne, “We want somebody coaching our football program at Mississippi State that’s on his way up, because that’s the way our program is. And Coach Mullen fit the bill in every aspect of what we were looking for in our program.” Byrne continued, “We wanted somebody that we felt could handle the X’s and O’s side of it as well as anybody could out there, and also somebody that had a passion for recruiting and had the energy level to really just dominate recruiting in the State of Mississippi in all aspects.” Fast forward four years and everything that Byrne talked about, Mullen has delivered on. Prior to Mullen’s arrival the Bulldogs won 38 games in the previous nine seasons. After four years on the job in Starkville, Mullen could get win number 30 with a vic-

tory over Northwestern in the Gator Bowl. Let that sink in Bulldog fans; 30 wins in four years is an average of 7.5-wins per year in an ever improving Southeastern Conference. In a conference that is playing for a seventh straight National Championship and in a division that has three recent National Champions in it – the Bulldogs are averaging almost eight wins a year over a four year stretch. Prior to Dan Mullen’s arrival in Starkville the Bulldogs average national recruiting ranking over the previous five years per Scout.com was 40th. Mississippi State has an opportunity this year for a top 15 class nationally and if that happens, Dan Mullen will hold a national recruiting average of 26 in a four year stretch. That is a jump of 14 slots in recruiting over that period which is astounding. To put in perspective just how far Mississippi State recruiting has come, just this year in 2012 the Bulldogs redshirted almost everyone and that included two four star linebackers, Richie Brown and Beniquez Brown. When is the last time the Bulldogs redshirted not one but two, four star players? This speaks of the depth Mullen has built during his time at Mississippi State. Since Mullen began at Mississippi State in 2009 he has only lost one ball game his team was favored in and that was at Auburn in 2011. How many times over the history of Mississippi State football have we seen a coach lose to a less talented team or a team that the Bulldogs should have handled easily? Dan Mullen has his team on track and moving in the right direction in the toughest conference in all of college football. Three straight bowl appearances, two of them on New Year’s day, three straight winning seasons, 23 straight home sellouts, new football facilities, and a stadium expansion coming. Not to mention many expect senior cornerback and Thorpe award winner Jonthan Banks to be taken in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft which would give the Bulldogs four straight years of placing a player in the NFL in the first round. Yes, the Bulldogs lost in a disappointing fashion in several games this year and yes, Mullen has yet to beat a top tier team, but to put things in perspective, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier averaged 7.3 wins per year in his first six years before two breakout years of 11 and 10 wins in 2011 and 2012. It simply takes time to build an upper tier program in college football if you’re not named Alabama, LSU or Texas. It takes paSEE LONG WAY - Continued on Page 22 MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 15


TOTHETOP Follow Derrick Guin on Twitter® @DerrickGuin

Southern Miss ‘Back’ To The Top BY Derrick Guin Featured Columnist

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hristmas came early to the Southern Miss faithful as USM hired Oklahoma State Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken as the new Head Football Coach at Southern Miss. And it couldn’t have come at a better time as a lot of other coaching vacancies were being filled and USM wasted no time in hiring Monken. The new Head Coach has a little bit of a reputation that will follow him into Hattiesburg and that is “Coach Monken is known to be extremely fiery with his language both on and off the field. ESPN had to use the bleeper over 20 times when the firecracker coach was on a TV special featuring the QB’s at Oklahoma State. Players and former coaches say Monken is a fiery and energetic coach that was the mastermind of OSU’s top five ranked high power offense. OSU in 2011 scored 49.7 points a game and his offense totaled on average of 551.17 yards a game. It will be that fire that needs to be “Re-lit” to get Southern Miss back in the winning column and as we like to say “ To The Top.” Monken will not have to worry right off the bat about ESPN cameras following him around so using any words that gets the 2010 team back and the 2011 to never be remembered is welcomed with open arms. Former OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden is being quoted as saying “Your gonna get cussed at, yelled at, and get your butt chewed by Monken, but as a player it’s all in a hard days work.” A native of Wheaton, Ill., Monken was a three-year letter winner at quarterback for Knox College. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics (1989) and followed that up with a master’s degree in education leadership from Grand Valley State. He is also a member of the Knox College Athletic Hall of Fame. Monken and his wife, Terri, have one son, Travis. Did you notice Todd, Terri and Travis in Southern Miss translation - the three T’s-“To The Top!” I would like to fully Welcome Our 20th Head Coach at Southern Miss – Todd Monken. Staying with Football for just a second…Auburn hires 0-12 former USM Head Coach Ellis Johnson within hours of his dismissal at Southern Miss. That hire just baffled me, but talking with some Auburn fans they are extremely happy to have Johnson. All I can do is laugh and wish Auburn the best in their new venture. GOLDEN EAGLE BASKETBALL First-year Head Coach Donnie Tyndall is doing a very impressive job with what few players he has on the team. The Eagles went to then 8th ranked Arizona and forced the Wildcats to a season high 27 turnovers and held the Cats to below 80 points for the first time. ‘Zona ending up winning in the end however, as USM turned the ball over in

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the second half but I was impressed at the hustle of the USM players. The Golden Eagles at the time of this article are 8-3 with a win over Georgia State 69-67 in their latest victory. C-USA will be an interesting year as the season gets going into conference play. Of course Memphis is the team to beat, the Tigers are somewhat more experienced than last year. I do look for USM to make some noise in conference play after watching them in December. Twenty wins for Coach Tyndall is not out of reach and maybe with some luck they can get back to the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles are playing sound defense with Neil Watson and Jonathan Mills and offensively its Dewayne Davis and Michael Craig taking control. If Jerrold Brooks gets hot shooting the 3-pointer then look out because he is dangerous and is extremely fun to watch. Southern Miss is averaging 68 points a game and holding the opponent to 57. That’s good basketball. C’Mon Baseball There is a lot of talk about the 2013 USM baseball team. I have been keeping up with all the College baseball writers and most have Southern Miss in their top 20 or close and say the Eagles are one of the teams to watch this season. The schedule is a good one too with the likes of Missouri, Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, and LSU out of the SEC. Mississippi State Head Coach John Cohen did not want to re-new the series with Southern Miss and so the Eagles will only play MSU once this season in Jackson at Trustmark Park. State would have been coming to Hattiesburg this year if the series had stay consistent as before. Rice and Tulane will also be playing in Hattiesburg with road games at Memphis and East Carolina on the docket. Head Coach Scott Berry will be hosting a Southern Miss Invitational that will feature Missouri State, Eastern Illinois and Alcorn State to kick off the season. That will be a great reason to head over to Pete Taylor Park in early February. Make sure you bundle up. There’s nothing like watching baseball in the cold. The Golden Eagles also have a trip to Troy, AL to play the Trojans. That series is always a good early match up for the Eagles. Southern Miss should be pretty strong on offense with the likes of Mason Robbins, Travis Creel, Blake Brown, Isaac Rodriguez and Michael Sterling as strong hitters. Pitching is going to be a strong point also with Boomer Scarbrough, Andrew Pierce, Cody Livingston, Dillon Day just to name a few. Catchers returning are Chase Fowler and Jared Bales. Its going to be a fun year for baseball and I cannot wait to get to Pete Taylor Park for some Eagle Baseball. Buy Tickets and Join the Eagle Club. Southern Miss To The Top! - MSM


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WHO’SHOT

Former Jackson Prep star Waters finds foot, home in Canada Searching NFL free agent enjoys banner season, Grey Cup triumph in the CFL By JOHN WIENER Contributing Writer

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he most improbable stop on the Swayze Waters Kicking Career Tour turned out to be the best. Waters, the former Jackson Prep and University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) star, bounced around NFL training camps the past four years. After being cut by the New York Jets this preseason, Waters signed with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League (CFL), only to be cut and then resigned by the Toronto Argonauts four weeks later. It seemed another unsure, unpromising destination in the kicking odyssey. Except Waters finally caught a break north of the border. The Argonauts’ starting kicker, Noel Prefontaine, remained injured, while the Argonauts caught fire and made an improbable run to the 100th Grey Cup championship. Waters hit 32 of 43 field goals (74.4%) and every extra point along the way, then nailed two field goals and all four extra points in Toronto’s 35-22 Grey Cup win on November 25th before a crowd of 52,208. “I went from not getting any looks to getting a lot of looks to being on a team and not playing to getting thrown in a fire all in a hurry,” Waters said. “I was just going week to week there. We weren’t predicted to make the playoffs, and then to make the playoffs and win the Grey Cup -- it was pretty awesome.” Waters had to adjust to life in Canada quickly— especially, he says, as a good ol’ Mississippi boy living in the big city of Toronto. He also had to learn an entirely different game, where the uprights stand on the goal line, the hash marks rest much further apart, and the scoring and clock rules are significantly varied. But the biggest change for Waters was becoming a football player again – something he’d missed during his four-year sojourn as a freeagent kicker. “It was probably the first time that I really felt a part of a team since college,” he said. “So for me that was best part about it: being in the locker room, really being a part of a team instead of a being somewhere for a month here, a few weeks there, and just bouncing around. Playing a football season is a lot like life: a lot of ups and downs, you can really learn a lot about life playing the game and being a part of a team.” Waters thrived finally as a part of a team, and may have significantly increased his chances of reaching the NFL. He’s performed admirably in preseason stops with the Raiders, Lions & Steelers, but says a lack of experience and big-kick credibility kept him from making a final roster. After this season’s banner performance in Canada’s biggest games, Waters has an abundance of both.

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Swayze and his wife Kendra, hoist the Grey Cup trophy. “I don’t know if I’m there yet. I guess that’s to be determined,” he said. “But playing a season helps, just being in that environment and kicking week in, week out. This year I was able to make two game winners, I made a 51 yard last second kick to beat Hamilton on the last day of the regular season, I was five for five in that game. So stuff like that is definitely good for them to see. Not only that but confidence-wise, moving on from here I’ll have that on my resume and in the back of my mind that I’ve done it before and I can do it again.” If there has been a pivotal corner turn in Waters’ kicking odyssey, it’s long overdue. But for the former metro star, who just months ago was kicking alone at Jackson Prep during his lunch breaks, the NFL may no longer be the only end game. Four years living a vagabond life of solo plane flights and pink slips has lent that much perspective. “A lot of people that I talk to quickly move on to, ‘Do you think you’ll get a shot in the NFL now?’ almost down playing the CFL and the Grey Cup,” Waters said. “I hope I get an opportunity in the NFL and if I do I’ll be very excited, but (the CFL) was very fulfilling for me. It really exceeded my expectations. The followings and the Grey Cup atmosphere were electric, and a great thing to be a part of. “ Indeed, as the final seconds ticked away in the Argonauts’ muchcelebrated Grey Cup triumph, that perspective got the best of Waters. He reflected on the long odyssey, and reveled in finding a temporary home. “I’m not a very emotional guy, especially not in sports, but I took a knee off to the side and just tried to take it all in. Actually teared up a little bit just thinking about all that,” he said. “It hasn’t been easy and a lot of times I’ve felt like giving up, but I think perseverance paid off…I always dreamed of playing professional sports when I was a kid, but never in this way or this position or anything. It’s kind of like a dream that keeps growing, and every opportunity that I get presented opens up a new dream.” - MSM


MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 19


STATEWIDE M I S S I S S I P P I A N S

Allen Blackwell Blackwell’s dream is to become Mississippi’s first ever Winter Olympian By CHUCK STINSON Contributing Writer Photos courtesy Allen Blackwell

A

llen Blackwell has had one dream. “I’ve always wanted to be in the Olympics,” says the 24 year old Mississippi native. He is chasing that Olympic dream too. In track and field you ask? Swimming maybe? Some summertime team sport where they practice in balmy Florida or bake in the Arizona sun year round? Not quite. Allen wants to make his mark as a member of the United States Skeleton Team. You read it right. A Mississippian wants to make his mark in the Winter Olympics. Meaning ice. And cold. And lots of both. Things that are rare in his home state. “The sports really intrigued me. It looked absolutely amazing and I said I really need to try this,” said Allen during a recent Skype interview from Austria where he was training and coaching. His interest in the sport started to develop at the age of 14 while watching the 2002 Olympic Games and originally it was the bobsled that caught his attention. “I always had this attraction to bobsled. I saw Cool Runnings (a movie about the first Jamaican bobsled team). It’s a great sport. You run as fast as you can and run 80 miles an hour or more down an ice track.” He researched the sport and realized that

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You steer with your head, shoulders, knees and toes. It looks like you are just laying there but we are laying there going 80 plus miles an hour with pressure and having to react in less than a tenth of a second. Every little thing counts.” the bobsled probably wouldn’t be his best option. But the one man version of the bobsled, the skeleton could work. “I’m 5’8 165 pounds. I wouldn’t make it in bobsled, I’m too small. The skeleton is the same sport, same tracks and everything.” So his focus changed. “I sat

my whole family down and I got everyone to sit down and watch the 2002 Olympics, the men’s and women’s Skeleton and said this is what I am going to do.” According to Blackwell his family responded with the typical, “Yeah, yeah, sure.” But he was determined to


get it done. He eventually found himself working out for the U.S. coaches in Utah. His high school track experience paid off early. “I was always a quick sprinter. They had a combine. Running, jumping and lifting. I was 14 years old and running faster and jumping higher than people in their 20’s.” They told him to keep at it and improve. “They said, ‘Go home, go train, get a sprint coach and figure out what you can do.” He did just that. “I went back home to Mississippi and my parents were very supportive. I got a sprint and speed coach and he said I want to be a part of this. Every day I would do sprint training and learn to run faster and do whatever I could. I went back in two months and they said, okay we want you to try this on ice.” Fast forward 10 years later and the Olympic hopeful is working his way up the ranks of the USA Skeleton team. He has been sledding on the North America Cup and Europa Cup circuits and was recently told that he will be moving up a level to the Intercontinental Cup. The next step would be World Cup where Olympic team members are decided. It is a complex sport with a complex points system, where points determine your world ranking and this Deep South native is moving his way up the chain in a winter sport, a fact that is not lost on him. “There has never

been a Mississippian to compete internationally in winter sports and I’m trying to be the first Mississippian in the Winter Olympics.” An internet search of Mississippians in the Winter Olympics turned up nothing to refute Blackwell’s claim but even if a handful of Mississippians have competed at some level of international winter sports it doesn’t diminish his achievements to this point. Again, he is a Mississippian sliding down an ice track at speeds of up to 90 miles an hour and facing 6G’s at times. “It is very physically demanding,” said Blackwell in an understatement. “It is a weird sport. You have to be strong and powerful, but it is also a finesse sport. We don’t have a steering mechanism. You steer with your head, shoulders, knees and toes. It looks like you are just laying there but we are laying there going 80 plus miles an hour with pressure and having to react in less than a tenth of a second. Every little thing counts.” But Blackwell says that time seems to slow down while he is on the sled. He has adapted to the sport and finds a way to process the information that is coming at him in the form of straight-a ways, Labyrinth (short and quick) turns and Omega (180 degree) turns at incredible speeds. “In my mind it feels like I am going 20 miles an hour. I have time to think about everything. Where I am exactly

on my sled, what my position is, to make sure my head is down and my shoulders are down. How I am using the pressure to push my sled forward, you have to think about all that,” says Blackwell. What he doesn’t want to think about is the obvious thought that would cross most people’s mind, crashing. “I pray and relax and try not to think of anything like that before I go. I am experienced enough now to know that I can see where I am in a turn and know that I am going to have to get myself out trouble or this is going to be real bad. Those are the times I have fear. Like if I am super high in a turn and I know the exit is right around the bend, I know I have to get out or this is going to hurt really bad. That’s fear.” Asked to compare it to a roller coaster, this cold weather thrill seeker responded with something quite ironic. “I’ve never been on a roller coaster in my life. I love the idea that I’m controlling it and if I flip or I crash it’s on me. Roller coaster’s kind of creep me out,” he said with a slight laugh. So what about his Olympic dream that drove him into the world of ice and speed of Skeleton racing? Is it a possibility? Yes, but maybe not for the next games in Sochi, Russia. “For 2014 it will be a long shot. It is still a possibility. My weakness is my push start. I am working on it and doing the best I can. My MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 21


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NEXT YEAR - Continued from Page 14

LONG WAY - Continued from Page 15

under new coaches next season, LSU and Alabama to remain at the top trying to fend off Johnny Manziel’s Texas A&M. In short, it’s just another daunting year in the SEC, but Ole Miss should be well equipped to handle it. Key games include...all of them. There’s never an off week in college football. Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy many months of pleasant football dreams. - MSM You can visit www.OMRebelNation.com to read more of Jake’s thoughts and opinions and catch up on Ole Miss sports.

tience from the fans to the administration. There is nothing wrong with wanting more from your team and striving for that next step. But, do not let your ever growing desire for more victories cloud the picture painted over the last four years. What Dan Mullen has been able to do in four years at Mississippi State is amazing and as fans we should relish in the moment, because if history is any indicator we know this will not last forever. Every team in sports has cycles and right now the Bulldogs are in a very good one. Not

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driving ability is one of best. I can go to any track in the world and learn to drive it in a week. I just drive well. If I can just get my push start down. Which will be one of the biggest challenges of my life. So there is a slim chance to make the 2014 games. But the 2018 games are a possibility. I have been talking to my coaches and that is what they are grooming me for in Pyeongchang, South Korea.” When he is not traveling with the team, Blackwell is back at home in Mississippi working as a trainer at Mississippi Cross-fit in Ridgeland and training himself as well. Running and weight training are his main focus. “I work on power movements with the weights, clean, snatch and squats. The things that you have to use to be able to use your whole body. You are running 30 to 50 meters, so you want to be able to sprint and use all of your energy as you can in that sprint.” His earnings help offset the cost of his dream, which as an amateur is expensive and completely self-funded. “Tax-free donation for tax-free athletes,” Blackwell says excitedly trying to drum up some financial support. “I have a Paypal account,” he adds. “I have to pay for my plane tickets, race fees, sleds, three sets of runners and they are $1,000 a piece. It is roughly $7,000 to $10,000 per sled. Travel, hotels, it all comes out of our pockets.” Blackwell says it is all worth it though. “I’m not going to lie. I wake up every day and think I am one of the most blessed people in the world. I don’t want to fail, but I’m not afraid of failure because I’ve already accomplished so much already. If I walked away from this sport today I’m perfectly happy with what I have already done,” says Blackwell. Adding, “I get to travel the world and compete internationally. I’m not competing for a school or a college or university. It’s a whole country I am representing. It literally blows my mind when I think about it.” And that, like the sport he has chosen, is pretty cool. - MSM too long ago times were rough and not fun in Starkville. It could be a lot worse than a New Year’s Day bowl game, much improved recruiting and three consecutive winning seasons. MSM You can visit www.makeitrainsports.com to read more of Jake’s thoughts and opinions and catch up on Miss. State sports.

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EAST MISSISSIPPI COMMUNITY COLLEGE’S 5-YEAR RESUME 13 All-Americans  5 All-American Quarterbacks  4 Division Titles  2 State Crowns

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MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 23


STATEWIDE M S

J U C O

R E P O R T

Can you hear me now? EMCC Coach Buddy Stephens’ football team speaks for itself as one of the premier JUCO programs in the nation By PAUL JONES Contributing Writer

E

ven after claiming the 2011 NJCAA national championship, the East Mississippi Community College football program still managed to capture another new accomplishment entering the 2012 campaign. That accomplishment centered around being the No. 1 team in the NJCAA national rankings before the 2012 season opener. But the program of late has been much more than just a number, said head coach Buddy Stephens. “The ranking is not as important but what 24 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

it does is it gives our program validity,” said Stephens, who owns a 44-10 coaching record in his sixth season at the EMCC helm. “It lets us know that people consider us a championship program. If you can be mentioned as a team to watch every year as far as winning a championship, then there is where you want your program to be.” Of course, with the normal turnover rate in junior college, Stephens added that the team’s mind-set never changes regardless of where the Lions are ranked. “We won 18 games in a row and we knew it could end at any time,” said Stephens after his team’s 6-0 start in 2012. “You can’t win them all and that’s part of it. For us, it is about ask-

ing the kids to buy into the process and buy into the program we are trying to install. It is good to be considered among the best in the nation but it is about more than rankings to us.” The Lions ended up winning their fourth straight MACJC North Division title this season and yet another appearance in the playoffs. Yet the Lions fell short of another state championship, which they claimed in 2011 along with the NJCAA National Championship. Reaching the playoffs yet having the season be a disappointing one speaks volumes as to how far the program has come under Stephens’ watch. Stephens also points to another area be-


hind the Lions’ recent success. And that falls directly on the support of the EMCC administration. “We’ve been able to recruit great talent,” said Stephens. “That’s largely been due to having good facilities and having the academic structure at East Mississippi. With the help of our administration, we’re able to get young men who want to play at a great program with nice equipment and with good academic structure. We give them all of that to be successful at the next level.” It is also important to recruit the “right kind of players”, too, added Stephens. “It boils down to recruiting the right kind of players,” said Stephens. “I guess a better way to say it is you have to recruit the right kind of athletes for your program and the

right kind of people.” Boosting those recruiting efforts is the Lions’ new stadium at Sullivan-Windham Field, which made its debut last season. It has given the players a sense of pride and the fans have turned the stadium into a homefield advantage. “Our kids know it’s a great place to play and it’s a great venue,” said Stephens. “Our scoreboard is second to none in the state, too. Our stadium is now a home-field advantage for us and that is what you want to have. “What you never want to happen is for a kid you sign to come to your program and play at lesser facilities than they had in high school. That isn’t the case here at all anymore. That is a testament to our board of trustees and Dr. (Rick) Young and the vision they have for our college. This facility is just par for the course with their vision.” And with facilities and consistent success on the national scene in place, no longer does Stephens have to talk up the program or try to sell the program to recruits. After all, Lions’ football now speaks for itself and speaks in loud volumes. “We had to serve Kool-aid our first couple of years before people actually started to believe it,” said Stephens. “Once kids bought into our philosophy and had success, we just kept building boxes on top of each other. That

won’t stop now, either, and we are going to keep on building.” Like any successful program, it was not just one person responsible for the accolades garnered. “Our success starts in the administration building with Dr. (Rick) Young and (EMCC vice-president for athletics) Mickey Stokes,” said Lions’ head coach Buddy Stephens. “They’ve been extremely helpful along with our board of trustees and that is where our success starts. They gave us the tools with the stadium and our program has built on their support each year. “Our success over the last four years has been due to the administration, the coaches and the players. It is not one person or just one thing. It is a combination of all those things and we hope to continues those things.” Stephens and his staff obviously enjoyed the rewards of a national championship season. But the work to maintain that success requires very few days off the job. “For us, we started carrying the momentum over right away,” said Stephens. “Two days after we got back from the national championship game, we were on the road recruiting. Our season paid big dividends for us and now a lot of people know about us and saw what we did. It makes recruiting easier and also harder in some aspects. “So we will continue to work hard again and we’ve gotten back in the weight room working hard. With the ones back from last year, we are making sure that, first of all, they are keeping the momentum up in the class room and then carrying our success over to the field.” Like every year at the community college level, Stephens and company endure a major turnover with the roster. In 2011 they sent players such as Denico Autry (MSU), Bo Wallace (Ole Miss), Damien Jacobs (Florida) and Brandon Moore (Texas) to BCS programs. This past year saw much of the same with highly-touted recruits like Justin Cox (MSU), Corey Smith (MSU), Jarran Reed (Ole Miss), Darious Cummings (Florida), Shaquille Fluker (Georgia)and Za’Darius Smith. “You try not to lose a whole lot but we had a very experienced sophomore class of receivers in 2011 and also on the defensive line,” said Stephens. “But we seem to replace them year-in and year-out. People also thought it would be hard to replace (former EMCC quarterbacks) Bo Wallace, Randall Mackey and Brad Henderson. We always have guys step up and make plays to fill those voids. “Having great coaches, great administration and support is what helps us attract better players. We also have outstanding facilities now. So when you are able to recruit and produce the results, it just keeps building your foundation even stronger. And that is what we try to do here every year.” - MSM MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 25


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MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 27


STATEWIDE O N

C A M P U S

On the Record:

SCOTT

STRICKLIN With his 3rd Anniversary as A.D. looming near, Scott Stricklin has a vision of maintaining consistent success across the board at MSU By PAUL JONES Contributing Writer Photos courtesy Miss. State Sports Information

W

hen the month of May rolls around it will mark three years on the job for Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin. But with all that has been done under his watch thus far, the MSU alumnus may feel like it’s been a decade or longer. During his tenure at MSU, Stricklin has hired head coaches for men’s basketball, women’s basketball, softball and soccer. On top of that, he’s handled an increased demand for season football tickets and has witnessed that program produce 23 consecutive sellouts at Davis Wade Stadium. Also an important topic, Stricklin helped the fan base to ‘ring responsibility’ with the cowbell issue within the SEC ranks and regu28 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE


Stricklin remains confident that the expansion of Davis Wade Stadium will keep the Bulldogs at a competitive level with the rest of the Southeastern Conference. - Photos courtesy Miss. State

lations. With all that moving and shaking, though, Stricklin said he wouldn’t want it any other way. “I don’t think there is another pace with these jobs,” said Stricklin. “And I think there is something positive about constantly having to adjust or adapt to different scenarios. There is a human tendency to want to get comfortable and I don’t think that is necessarily healthy when you are in a growing organization. So if you are placed in certain situations where you have to get uncomfortable, kind of like football where we’ve had some success, but then it brings up another set of challenges than what we’ve had in the past. “So all those things are healthy and you

grow and learn from those situations.” Stricklin has also been in charge of major expansions these days on the MSU campus. This month the football program moved into their 25 million dollar facility - the Seal Complex - that has already drawn rave reviews from the players, coaches and recruits as well. It was a hot topic of conversation with head coach Dan Mullen during his contract extension talks two years ago, said Stricklin. “It’s pretty exciting to see that become a reality,” said Stricklin. “It was something that was important to Dan from the time he got here. Two years ago after that Gator Bowl, we did that new contract for him and that was one of the things that was important to him, and on his list. It was something he wanted

to get going and nine months later we were breaking ground. So that tells you there is a donor base out there that is fired up and wants to see these kinds of things become a reality. “We had a lot of people on our staff that worked really hard on the design part of it and working with the architectural team. Your facilities say a lot about what’s important to you, whether it’s someone driving up and seeing Dudy Noble Field and all of its history or walking into the Mize Pavilion or pulling up to the football stadium with that expansion going on or seeing the Seal Complex. It makes a big impact.” Yes, the expansion of Davis Wade Stadium is also well underway. Expected to be completed by the start of the 2014 season and we be able to seat over 62,000 fans, Stricklin says fans will brgin to see signs of what the finished product will look like when the 2013 season gets kicked off in September. “We will still be going through construction,” said Stricklin. “The new West concourse is scheduled to be substantially complete in time to host the 2013 season. That is the new rest rooms and concessions and of the four new elevators going on the West side, two of them are supposed to be operational by the time the fall season rolls around. I say scheduled because weather does play an impact with any construction. “At that time the North end zone is scheduled to be complete enough to where we can at least sit the students there that we displaced while the bleachers were removed. Then as the season goes along people will be able to see progress and start to see more finishing touches as it rounds into shape.” Next on the agenda with expansion, added Stricklin, is to improve several other sports on campus. “Our next thing to tackle will likely be our Olympic sports,” said Stricklin. “We have about 10 million dollars worth of items we would like to see happen. The good thing on that side is we already have designs ready to go. We spent some time planning a soccer locker room at their field, a new grandstand for softball, renovating the A.J. Pitts Tennis Center and an indoor locker room for our golf team at the golf course.” Also in need of a face-lift is Dudy Noble Field, which at one time set the standard for not just the SEC but all of college baseball. With other SEC programs having put an emphasis on their baseball facilities, MSU plans to do the same down the road. But as Stricklin noted, the key is to not take anything away from Dudy Noble’s “uniqueness.” “With football we took our time and it took about two years from the time we had the idea to the time we actually broke ground,” said Stricklin. “We did a master plan to look long term as to what we want Davis Wade to SEE STRICKLIN - Continued on Page 70 MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 29


The game of the year for 2012 was not a game at all. A rain delay before the match-up between Southern Miss and Ole Miss at Trustmark Park kept the players off the field, but it did not dampen the spirits of the two teams as they tried to outperform each other, while entertaining the crowd, with mini-skits, a dance-off and practical jokes.

2013

BASEB Photo by Greg Pevey, Mississippi Sports Magazine 30 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE


EBALL PREVIEW MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 31


#MSMBASEBALLPREVIEW

LUIS POLLORENA:

IRON MAN By PAUL JONES

Contributing Writer Photos Courtesy Miss. State Sports Information

W

hether it is on the mound, at the plate or in the outfield, Mississippi State’s Luis Pollorena has faced his share of pressure-packed moments on the diamond. But related to his early childhood, those moments these days seem small in comparison. The Diamond Dog senior pitcher overcame a battle with leukemia at a young age, and is easily one of the most respected athletes - and most loved by MSU fans - on campus. “My mom noticed that I would get tired a lot,” said Pollorena. “I grew up as a real active child and was always running around a lot. But she started to notice that I would fall asleep in different places and if I were to bump into something I would bruise real bad. That’s when she took me to the doctor and they told her my diagnosis. “Then I started to go for treatments in Monterrey, Mexico, every weekend. After that they put me in the hospital for three months and it was a hard, hard road going through chemo and not being able to see my family much and my brothers. My older brother, at that time, was seven years old and my younger brother was a couple of months old. The whole time I was there was a real tough time.” Pollorena recalls those days with vivid memories and how tough that time was on his family. But there is one particular moment during that time that Pollorena holds dear to his heart. As does his mom. “One day I was there my mom said she heard the flat-line sound go off,” said Pollorena. “All I remember at that time was seeing white and I saw the light and remember talking to God. All He said was ‘what are 32 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

you doing here?’ and kept repeating that over and over. He told me ‘I shouldn’t be here and I have a plan for you’. He started fading away and then I remember blinking and my mom being right there. She said it was a miracle and called the doctor right away.” Following his high school career in Texas, Pollorena played one year at Marion (Ala.) Military Institute. His coach there - Jake Wells - is now on the MSU staff and back then Wells had a connection with the Bulldogs’ coaching staff. Obviously, the Bulldogs were interested in the southpaw athlete for his skills on the mound and Pollorena didn’t take long to fall in love with the MSU campus. “It was when I came on my official visit,” said Pollorena. “It was during the summer and nobody was really here. But I fell in love with the place. I saw the field and saw the campus and it just immediately felt like home. It’s just that feeling you get when you are at home. It was just a comfortable feeling of knowing I would be safe here and knew it was the place for me.” Entering his senior career, Pollorena has experienced a good bit of team and individual success. As a sophomore he posted a 7-5 record on the hill and helped MSU reach a NCAA Super Region. Last year Pollorena was 4-0 with a 1.85 era and was instrumental in the Bulldogs’ run to the SEC Tournament title. “It was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work, too,” said Pollorena. “During that fall I actually had my worst fall ever and one of my worst times pitching. But (MSU senior pitcher) Kendall Graveman is a guy that took me under his wing and he told me to keep on pitching and keep competing no matter what happens. He told me to keep going and that this game will repay you somehow. “You can knock me down as many times as you want but I am always going to get back up. As long as it is physically possible for me to keep getting up I am always going to keep coming at you.” However, MSU fans will likely remember Pollorena’s clutch at-bat in the SEC Tournament semifinals against LSU. Needing to plate a run


MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 33


to force extra innings, Pollorena was asked to pinch-hit and collected a RBI via a sacrifice fly. In pre-game drills and whether he is pitching that day or not, Pollorena can be spotted shagging fly balls in batting practice. He was also a late-inning outfield replacement last season and drew two starts last year in right field. And yes, he would bug head coach John Cohen every single day to get that playing time. “That was an every-day thing,” said Pollorena with a laugh. “I would tell him ‘Coach I’m ready, I’m ready. I would mess around and grab a helmet and walk around with it the whole game. During batting practice I would shag fly balls no matter what I was doing that day. “My dad always told me to always try to make yourself better every day. I feel I can do that in the outfield and it also helps with my conditioning and my pitching. I always tell Coach Cohen whatever he needs from me on and off the field and for them to put me in crucial situations shows a lot about this program. “As long as I am blessed to step on the field I am happy. If I am able to pitch any or play anywhere, it doesn’t matter to me as long as I can contribute. I look forward to the direction everyone wants to take this team this year.” Although not a Magnolia State native, it didn’t take long for Pollorena to get informed on the intensity of the MSU-Ole Miss rivalry. And he has enjoyed some of his best showings against the rival Rebels. Last year Pollorena was 2-0 against Ole Miss and allowed just one run in 10.2 innings of work. “It is a lot of fun,” said Pollorena. “I grew up with the main rivalry of Texas versus Oklahoma. That was the rivalry I grew up watching. But I think this rivalry may be bigger than that one. I guess everyone kicks their game up another level in that rivalry. The first time I ever played against (Ole Miss) I could feel how much intensity there was going into that game. And it didn’t even count in the SEC standings and was in Pearl. Just knowing how much the fans are into it and how bad the players want to beat them is a lot of fun. “We don’t even say their name around here. We call them ‘The School up North’. It makes you want to compete harder and pitch against them even harder.” Looking towards his final season in the Maroon and White, Pollorena is one of several key pieces returning this year. Yes, MSU lost a major contributor when All-American pitcher Chris Stratton left a year early to start his minor-league career. But other top pitchers such as Kendall Graveman, Jonathan Holder and Pollorena do return to a staff that led the SEC in team era last year (2.58). “I know Kendall and Strat (Chris Stratton) 34 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

Photos Courtesy MISS. STATE SPORTS INFORMATION

had that rough bump their first year here,” said Pollorena. “That was when I was at (Marion) Military Institute in Alabama so it was a rough bump for me, too, but it was two different kinds of bumps. But now we’re all older and looking forward to using our experience and maturity this year day-in and day-out. “If we take ten minutes off of practice and don’t go as hard as we can then we know that can affect us in the long run. Just like last year, we felt we were good enough to win that (NCAA) regional but we came up short. We know we have to do those little things hard and there is a feeling in that locker room that we can reach our success this year and get to Omaha.” Also this year, Pollorena will receive his degree in teaching and coaching and has plans to still be involved in baseball.

“I want to stay around the game,” said Pollorena. “Whether it is playing or whatever, I just want to be around the game and inspire lives. If it’s not playing then I want to be in coaching and help kids reach success at the highest level.” And no matter how many pressure-filled moments Pollorena and the Bulldogs face on the diamond this year, it will fail in comparison to real life. “Absolutely,” said Pollorena. “When I was younger I would start to get frustrated if I had a bad game or if I made an error or something. But as I grew older I matured more and looked at it as just a game. If I come into the game and give up four or five home runs, sure it’s going to bother me for five or ten minutes. But then I have to realize it’s just a game and there’s more to life.” - MSM


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#MSMBASEBALLPREVIEW

Miss. State BULLDOGS QUICK FACTS >

Schedule

Coach: John Cohen Arena: Dudy Noble Field, PolkDeMent Stadium Capacity: 15,000 2012 Record: 40-24 Overall, 16-14 SEC, 28-8 Home, 5-12 Away, 7-4 Neutral Tournament: NCAA

Feb. 15......................Portland Feb. 16............. Portland (DH) Feb. 17......................Portland Feb. 19.................. Grambling Feb. 22....................... Purdue Feb. 23..................... Samford Feb. 23....................... Purdue Feb. 24..................... Samford Feb. 26..............New Orleans Feb. 27..............New Orleans Mar. 1................. St. Joseph’s Mar. 2......... St. Joseph’s (DH) Mar. 3................. St. Joseph’s Mar. 5................MS Valley St. Mar. 8..........Central Arkansas Mar. 9..........Central Arkansas Mar. 10........Central Arkansas Mar. 12........ Southern Miss # Mar. 15............................ LSU Mar. 16............................ LSU Mar. 17............................ LSU Mar. 22................. @Kentucky Mar. 23................. @Kentucky Mar. 24................. @Kentucky Mar. 26................Austin Peay Mar. 29................. @Arkansas Mar. 30................. @Arkansas Mar. 31................. @Arkansas Apr. 2...........@South Alabama Apr. 5........................... Florida Apr. 6........................... Florida Apr. 7........................... Florida Apr. 9.................... Ole Miss # Apr. 12.............. @Texas A&M Apr. 13.............. @Texas A&M Apr. 14.............. @Texas A&M Apr. 18........................ Auburn Apr. 19........................ Auburn Apr. 20........................ Auburn Apr. 23..................@Memphis Apr. 26................. @Vanderbilt Apr. 27................. @Vanderbilt Apr. 28................. @Vanderbilt May 3........................ Alabama May 4........................ Alabama May 5........................ Alabama May 10.................. @Ole Miss May 11.................. @Ole Miss May 12.................. @Ole Miss May 16.............South Carolina May 17.............South Carolina May 18.............South Carolina May 21-26.......... SEC Tourney # - Trustmark Park, Pearl, MS

By PAUL JONES Contributing Writer

L

ast season Mississippi State head coach John Cohen said his program take another big step towards being a consistent force in the SEC. The Diamond Dogs didn’t advance to a NCAA Super Regional as they did in 2011 but they did bring home an SEC Tournament championship after a hot run in Hoover, Ala. Looking at the 2012 MSU edition on the diamond, Cohen returns several pieces of the puzzle and will look for another postseason run. MSU finished 40-24 last year and had a 16-14 SEC mark. “We’re really pleased with the group we have coming back,” said Cohen. “It was a unique fall (practice) I’ve ever been a part of, simply because we don’t have a ton of new players. The majority of our guys are guys that are returning and we feel very good about those guys. I’ve said this since I’ve been here and I really believe this. Having coaches on the field is extremely important to the success of your club and I feel we have that.” But there are some holes to fill, particularly on the mound. Chris Stratton was a first-round MLB Draft selection while veteran closer Caleb Reed and weekend starter Nick Routt also moved on

WES REA from the pitching staff. “Obviously we still have some holes to fill even though we only lost four players from our team a year ago,” said Cohen. “Chris Stratton threw over a 100 innings for us and that is significant in college baseball and that doesn’t happen a lot. Obviously Chris had one of the best pitching years not only in the history of Mississippi State, but arguably in the Southeastern Conference.” What his team does not lack this season is confidence. Several players in the offseason threw out the term ‘Omaha’, as in the Col-

36 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

lege World Series. That suits Cohen just fine as long as his players are working hard towards that goal in everything they do on and off the field. “That is where we want to be and that’s our goal and that is our focus on a daily basis,” Cohen said. “Your deal is getting better every single day. I think there are probably 60 programs in the country right now that say we want to win a national championship and want to be on top. That’s what they ought to be doing and if they are not doing that then they are in the wrong business.


Win-Loss record when... Overall .......................... 40-24 Conference ................... 16-14 Non-Conference ........... 24-10 Home games .................. 28-8 Away games ................... 5-12 Neutral site ....................... 7-4 Day games .................... 22-16 Night games ................... 18-8 vs Left starter ................. 18-7 vs Right starter ............. 22-17 1-Run games ................ 11-10 2-Run games .................. 11-3 5+Run games ................... 9-4 Extra innings ..................... 4-4 Shutouts ........................... 6-3 Scoring 0-2 runs .............. 5-12 ... 3-5 runs ....................... 19-8 ... 6-9 runs ....................... 11-4 ... 10+ runs ....................... 5-0 Opponent 0-2 runs .......... 25-2 ... 3-5 runs ..................... 12-10 ... 6-9 runs ....................... 3-11 ... 10+ runs ....................... 0-1 Scored in 1st inning ........ 15-3 Opp. scored in 1st ............ 7-8 Scores first ..................... 28-6

HUNTER RENFROE

Opp. scores first ........... 12-18 After 6 leading ................ 30-2 ... trailing ......................... 4-17 ... tied ................................ 6-5 After 7 leading ................ 34-1 ... trailing ......................... 2-20 ... tied ................................ 4-3 After 8 leading ................ 34-0 ... trailing ......................... 2-21 ... tied ................................ 4-3

“Chris Stratton threw over a 100 innings for us and that is significant in college baseball and that doesn’t happen a lot. Obviously Chris had one of the best pitching years not only in the history of Mississippi State, but arguably in the Southeastern Conference.”

Hit 0 home runs ............ 31-15 ... 1 home run ................... 7-8 ... 2+ home runs ............... 2-1 Opponent 0 home runs . 36-15 ... 1 home run ................... 4-7 ... 2+ HRs ......................... 0-2 Made 0 errors ................. 13-6 ... 1 error ......................... 13-5 ... 2+ errors ................... 14-13 Opp. made 0 errors ...... 14-11 ... 1 error ....................... 15-10 ... 2+ errors ..................... 11-3 Out-hit opponent ............ 26-5 Out-hit by opponent ...... 13-17 Hits are tied ...................... 1-2

INFIELD Among that experience returning for that Bulldogs includes several veteran infielders. Sophomore first baseman Wes Rea struggled through injuries in 2012. Rea didn’t fare well against breaking pitches and hit just .244 but still tied for the team lead with five home runs and had a team-best 38 RBIs. “Wes Rea is somebody we feel like is healthier now than he’s ever been since he’s been at Mississippi State,” said Cohen. “They found through an MRI that he had a

little cyst that had developed inside his shoulder that was causing him some discomfort, and major discomfort through the course of the year. We feel he is healthy and ready to go. I really feel like Wes has not even started to scratch the surface of what he can do for us as a defender and hitter, as well.” Experience is also evident at the middle infield position with junior shortstop Adam Frazier, who spent the summer with Team USA, and second basemen Sam Frost and sophomore Matthew Britton.

Frazier led the Bulldogs with a .371 average a year ago and also stole a team-best nine bases. Frost and Britton split time at second base while Frost, a senior, also saw time at third base. “Adam Frazier having the experience with Team USA (this summer) and although he didn’t play as much as he would’ve liked to, it was still a tremendous experience for him,” Cohen said. “When you are ever around some of the best players in college baseball it is a great experience and also to have the opportunity to put USA on your chest it is a wonderful opportunity.” Also in the mix this year will be 2012 signee Kyle Hann, a native of Canada. Experience - and improved health - is also evident at the other corner position. Junior Daryl Norris suffered a knee injury towards the middle of last year but he still hit .273 with 25 RBIs. Freshman Nick Flair, who redshirted last year due to a shoulder injury, will also factor into the mix at third. “The third base position is very interesting to me because we have some options there,” said Cohen. “Flair is a young man we believe is going to be an option for us. Obviously Daryl Norris - when healthy - has done a very good job for us at third base, defensively. “But we do have some options there at third base. I think Nick Flair is a great option.” And behind the plate, senior Mitch Slauter returns after appearing in all 64 games (62 starts) last year. The Bulldogs welcome back senior Nick Ammirati, too, as well as highly-touted 2012 signee Daniel Garner. “Obviously Mitch Slauter is one of the warriors in all of college baseball with the amount of games he caught, especially consecutively in postseason,” said Cohen. OUTFIELD The Bulldog outfield also returns much of its punch with juniors C.T. Bradford and Hunter Renfroe. Bradford missed the latter half of the 2011 season with a shoulder injury but is now fully recovered. When healthy, Bradford teamed with Frazier to form a

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solid 1-2 pop at the head of the batting lineup. “Obviously having C.T. healthy is almost like having another guy in our recruiting class because he didn’t get to be part of our postseason last year and a large part of the SEC,” Cohen said. And Renfroe enjoyed an outstanding summer that saw him set records in the Cal Ripken League in home runs and RBIs. In fact, he had his jersey retired following his productive summer in that league. Renfroe hit .252 a year ago with four home runs and 25 RBIs for the Bulldogs. “Hunter Renfroe had a pretty good summer,” Cohen said with a laugh. “He is just one of those very talented guys that is working his tail off again to have a better command of the strike zone, offensively. I have said this many times and maybe folks are sick of hearing it but there aren’t ten Hunter Renfroes in the country, not when you add up the speed and the arm strength and the power. “We are expecting big things out of Hunter Renfroe. I think we can be a great club if Hunter is right in the middle of things and I don’t see why he wouldn’t be.” The Bulldogs also return sophomores Tyler Fullerton and DeMarcus Henderson, who may also see time on the infield. Another Canada native and 2012 signee - Jacob Robson - could also figure into the outfield plans. PITCHING In 2011 MSU led the SEC with a team era of 2.58 and that lowly number also ranked among the nation’s best. Yes, Stratton is now in the San Francisco Giants’ minor-league system but many arms returns for the Diamond Dogs. Senior Kendall Graveman leads the group and Graveman is coming off a break-through season. The right-hander was 4-4 last year with a 2.89 earned run average and ranked second on the team in innings pitched (89.1) and strikeouts (59). Another possible weekend starter back is junior Ben Bracewell, yet another Diamond Dog who was sidelined for most of the 2011 season with injury. Another vital piece is the staff is sophomore closer Jonathan Holder - a 2011 Freshman All-American. Holder did not allow an earned run until MSU’s final game in the NCAA Regional and was 2-1 on the season with nine saves and a 0.32 era. “He has really embraced the role we’ve set for him as a closer,” said Cohen of Holder. “I don’t think we could ask too much more of a freshman than what we got out of him. He is special and is mature and we think he is going to be able to do a lot for us.” 38 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

C.T. BRADFORD

“Fan favorite Luis Pollorena does a little bit of everything for us,” Cohen said. “He can start or be a bullpen guy for us. He is just a phenominal team guy and a guy who helps you win games in so many different ways and so many ways it is hard to explain to folks.” Another pair of sophomores looking to contribute even more this year will be righthander Brandon Woodruff and southpaw Jacob Lingdren. Woodruff, who also saw time in

the outfield, posted a 2.38 era as a rookie in 12 appearances while Lindgren was 2-2 with a 3.18 era in 14 appearances. Cohen will also expect production and se-


#MSMBASEBALLPREVIEW

I think there are probably 60 programs in the country right now that say we want to win a national championship and want to be on top. That’s what they ought to be doing and if they are not doing that then they are in the wrong business. nior leadership from left-hander Chad Girado. After a rocky junior season, Cohen raved about Girado’s offseason improvements. “I think somebody that is unheralded at this point is Chad Girado,” said Cohen. “He went out to California and had an unbelievable summer and his numbers were spectacular. He doesn’t walk folks and has really developed his breaking ball. We kind of forced the slider on him and he convinced us that’s not who he wants to be.

“He wants to be more of a changeup-curveball guy. He is a guy that made that jump and Chris Stratton was a guy that made that jump a year ago. At this point in time a year ago we were not sure what Chris Stratton was going to be able to do.” Of course, the heart and soul of the MSU pitching staff - and maybe the entire team - is also back in Maroon and White. Senior lefthander Luis Pollorena has played a variety of roles in his career whether it is starting or

relieving. Not to mention being a late-inning pinch-runner and pinch-hitter. In fact, Pollorena had a clutch sacrifice fly in the 2012 SEC Tournament. “Fan favorite Luis Pollorena does a little bit of everything for us,” Cohen said. “He can start or be a bullpen guy for us. He is just a phenomenal team guy and a guy who helps you win games in so many different ways and so many ways it is hard to explain to folks.” MSM

the ROSTER NO..NAME................................................. POS........................... B/T.........................HT/WT.......................... YR.................................... HOMETOWN (LAST SCHOOL) 2...... Demarcus Henderson .....................................INF ................................. R/R ........................... 5-11/174 ............................ Fr. RS ................................... Waynesboro, MS (Wayne County HS) 3...... Phillip Casey ....................................................INF ................................. L/R ............................ 6-0/174 ............................. Fr. HS .............................. Sugar Land, TX (Fort Bend Clements HS) 4...... Ben Bracewell ................................................RHP ................................ R/R ............................ 6-0/205 ............................. So. 1L .............................. Chelsea, AL (Briarwood Christian School) 5...... Daryl Norris .................................................INF/RHP ............................. R/R ............................ 6-1/226 ............................. So. 1L .....................................................Fairhope, AL (Fairhope HS) 6...... C.C. Watson ................................................... LHP .................................L/L ............................ 6-0/199 ............................. So. 1L .........................................................Heflin, AL (Cleburne HS) 7...... Taylor Stark .................................................. OF/RHP ............................. R/R ............................ 6-0/188 ............................. So. 1L .....................................Flowood, MS (Northwest Rankin HS) 8...... Sam Frost ........................................................INF ................................. L/R ........................... 5-10/171 .............................Jr. 2L ......................................................... Hoover, AL (Hoover HS) 9...... Tyler Fullerton ...............................................OF/INF .............................. R/R ............................ 5-9/165 ............................. Fr. HS ................................................ Murfreesboro, TN (Siegel HS) 10.... C.T. Bradford ............................................... OF/LHP ..............................L/L ............................ 5-8/170 ............................. So. 1L ................................................................. Pace, FL (Pace HS) 12.... Adam Frazier ...................................................INF ................................. L/R ........................... 5-10/172 ............................ So. 1L ............................................Bishop, GA (Oconee County HS) 13.... Brayden Jones ................................................INF ................................. R/R ........................... 5-11/186 ............................ Fr. RS ....................................... Madison, MS (Madison Central HS) 14.... Jonathan Holder .............................................RHP ................................ R/R ............................ 6-2/247 ............................. Fr. HS ..................................................... Gulfport, MS (Gulfport HS) 15.... Matthew Britton ..............................................INF ................................. L/R ........................... 5-11/182 ............................ Fr. HS ...................................................... Cullman, AL (Cullman HS) 17.... Nick Ammirati ................................................... C .................................. S/R ............................ 5-9/198 ..............................Jr. JC ........Sparta, NJ (Seton Hall/Panola [TX] JC) (Seton Hall Prep) 18.... Chad Girodo ................................................... LHP .................................L/L ............................ 6-1/192 ..............................Jr. 2L .................................................... Hartselle, AL (Hartselle HS) 21.... Jacob Lindgren ............................................... LHP ................................ R/L ........................... 5-11/206 ............................ Fr. HS .....................................Bay St. Louis, MS (St. Stanislaus HS) 22.... Luis Pollorena ................................................. LHP .................................L/L ............................ 5-7/168 ..............................Jr. 1L .......... Laredo, TX (Marion [AL] Military Institute) (United HS) 24.... Brandon Woodruff ....................................RHP/OF/INF .......................... L/R ............................ 6-2/221 ..............................Fr.HS .................................................... Wheeler, MS (Wheeler HS) 25 ... Nick Flair ..........................................................INF ................................. R/R ............................ 6-1/192 ............................. Fr. HS .......................................Belle Chasse, LA (Belle Chasse HS) 28.... Chris Stratton .................................................RHP ................................ R/R ............................ 6-3/198 ..............................Jr. 2L .......................................................... Tupelo, MS (Tupelo HS) 29.... Mitch Slauter .................................................... C .................................. R/R ............................ 6-1/215 ..............................Jr. JC ................. Olathe, KS (Barton County CC) (Olathe North HS) 31.... Trevor Fitts .....................................................RHP ................................ R/R ............................ 6-2/228 ............................. Fr. HS ......................................................... Helena, AL (Pelham HS) 32.... Trey Porter ....................................................... 1B ................................. L/R ............................ 6-1/221 ..............................Jr. JC ................. Hurley, MS (MS Gulf Coast CC) (East Central HS) 33 ... Preston Brown ...............................................RHP ................................ R/R ........................... 5-11/182 ............................ Fr. HS ....................................... Germantown, TN (St. George’s HS) 34.... Hunter Renfroe ......................................... C/OF/RHP ........................... R/R ............................ 6-2/211 ............................. So. 1L .................................. Crystal Springs, MS (Copiah Academy) 35.... Wes Rea ...................................................... 1B/RHP ............................. R/R ............................ 6-5/296 ............................. Fr. RS ........................................ Gulfport, MS (Harrison Central HS) 36.... Nick Routt ...................................................... LHP .................................L/L ............................ 6-4/202 ..............................Jr. 2L ...............................Silver Spring, MD (St. Johns College HS) 37.... Caleb Reed .....................................................RHP ................................ R/R ........................... 5-10/202 .............................Sr. 3L ........................................... Cleveland, MS (Bayou Academy) 38.... Will Cox ..........................................................RHP ................................ R/R ............................ 6-3/231 ............................. Fr. HS .......................................................... Amory, MS (Amory HS) 39.... Tanner Gaines ................................................RHP ................................ R/R ............................ 6-0/172 ............................. Fr. RS ....................................................Baldwyn, MS (Baldwyn HS) 42.... Brent Brownlee ............................................... OF ................................. R/R ............................ 6-0/188 ..............................Sr. 2L ......................................................... Oxford, MS (Oxford HS) 44.... Andrew Busby ................................................RHP ................................ R/R ............................ 6-4/215 ..............................Jr. 1L ............... Gardendale, AL (Wallace State-Hanceville [AL] CC) 46.... Tim Statz ........................................................ LHP .................................L/L ............................ 6-0/165 ..............................Sr. 1L ............. St. Louis, MO (Hutchinson [KS] CC) (Marquette HS) 48.... Ross Mitchell ................................................. LHP .................................L/L ............................ 6-0/168 ............................. Fr. RS .................................................... Smyrna, TN (Blackman HS) 49.... Kendall Graveman ..........................................RHP ................................ R/R ............................ 6-1/190 ..............................Jr. 2L ..............................Alexander City, AL (Benjamin Russell HS) 51.... Evan Mitchell ..................................................RHP ................................ R/R ............................ 6-2/173 ............................. So. 1L .....................................................Marietta, GA (Wheeler HS)

INNING BY INNING TEAMS Miss. State Opponents

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 EX Total 33 32 23 42 36 26 30 32 24 9 287 21 18 40 35 19 24 16 24 12 10 219 MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 39


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JAKE GIBBS:

double

DUTY

Gibbs was Mississippi’s first two-sport AllAmerican splitting his time between the gridiron and the diamond By JOHN DAVIS Contributing Writer Photos courtesy Ole Miss Sports Information

O

le Miss may be in the process of establishing a more extensive, better organized collection of sports achievements that will be displayed at the Indoor Practice Facility later this year, but there isn’t an Ole Miss player that can offer as much living history as Jake Gibbs. The former two-way standout from Grenada is literally a walking museum, an individual who not only loves Ole Miss, but has a great amount of knowledge about its history in Ole Miss’ two most successful sports. Gibbs played football for legendary Ole Miss football coach Johnny Vaught from 1958-1960 and for Tom Swayze in baseball. He played professional baseball with the New 40 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

York Yankees, he helped Vaught coach quarterbacks, including Archie Manning, during his annual breaks from pro baseball and he later led the Ole Miss baseball program from 1972-1990 where he won 485 games, a number second only to Mike Bianco. There has been a lot of change in college athletics ever since Gibbs arrived in Oxford in the late 1950s. Back then there was no weight room, no real strength program and athletes

that played two sports made sure football always came first. “We had some weights over at the old gym but it wasn’t organized. The coaches said if you wanted lift weights, go do it. You got stronger through work or you played baseball in the summer time. My sophomore year, I played for the Packers of West Point in a semipro league. It was a good league, I played over there for two years,” Gibbs recalled. “I lifted


Gibbs decided to go professional in baseball instead of football despite being drafted by the Houston Oilers of the American Football League and Cleveland Browns National Football League in 1961. Gibbs signed with the New York Yankees in 1961.

MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 41


some weights in high school, me and another guy, Jim Quinn, who was a guard. He had some weights at his house and three or four of us would go over there and lift some weights on our own. I worked at Jitney Jungle (grocery store) from my eighth grade year until I was a senior and we would get back there and stock the shelves and lift cans. Sometimes we would get back there and me and a couple other football guys would get back there and military press a 60 pound bag of sugar and things like that. That’s natural strength.” Gibbs, who came back and coached with Vaught in 1965, remembers when weight training became a bigger deal. “It was in ‘67, ‘68, I don’t remember the school, but somebody close put in a weight room. Word got out that this university had established a weight facility and before you knew it, somebody else got one and it just fell in line,” Gibbs said. “You made your kids stronger and then when you recruited them, you could say we got this nice weight room here and we’re going to get you bigger, we’re going to get you stronger. So it became a recruiting thing for schools and I remember Coach Vaught went looking into one.” Success was something Gibbs experienced at both football and baseball. He was a member of two SEC champion baseball teams in 1959 and 1960 and a member of the 1960 football team that also won an SEC title. He was of course a key member of the 1959 team that only gave up 21 points all year and blasted Billy Cannon and LSU in the 1960 Sugar Bowl. “I don’t know how many people realize this but it’s something special here at Ole Miss, the spring of ‘59 was the first baseball championship won. Now Coach Swayze had some teams in ‘54, ‘56 but ‘59 is the first year we won a title. Then you had the ‘59 football team, the team of the decade, a team that won the Sugar Bowl was ranked number one in a couple of polls, two or three in a couple of polls,” Gibbs said. “Then in 1960 we were baseball champions, 1960 SEC champions in football, Sugar Bowl champions, No. 1 team in the nation back-to-back years. I’m not sure many people realize that the baseball team in 1959 and 60 and the football teams in 59 and 60 were that good.” There were several two-way athletes on those teams and Gibbs said it was possible to play both because Vaught started spring football practice in early February. “I loved it. I loved it here in college. Of course football in college was always number one. We had three great seasons when I was here but when football was over, I looked forward to getting out to baseball. Of course times are different. We had spring football early. You didn’t have offseason conditioning. The first of February started spring football and we got done on the 19th or 20th of March. 42 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

That’s when you had the spring game,” Gibbs said. “Guys like me and (Robert) Khayat and Doug Elmore and Mule Jones that played football, in February, whenever Coach Swayze started spring, we would take our shoulder pads out to the dugout at like 1:30. Then we got in all of our infield work and our batting practice in and then we would go put our shoulder pads on and we went down the hill and practice football for two hours. “That’s what we did back in the old days. I never missed a spring football practice. You got your work in. We did that everyday. And when spring football was over, it was over. We

ing more on speed, pitching and defense to win games rather than bash the ball out of the park. “They’ve taken the sting out of the bat now. Just the way it sounds, it doesn’t sound like wood to me. You got to hit on the sweet spot to drive it out of the ballpark now. When LSU won the World Series, the home runs they hit up there in that game, either the bat was loaded up or the ball was loaded up. They were hitting them everywhere,” Gibbs said. “I think (NCAA) were concerned with the bat being so lively .... you’ve heard people say that a ball coming off those bats, if you’re a pitcher

“I loved it. I loved it here in college. Of course football in college was always number one. We had three great seasons when I was here but when football was over, I looked forward to getting out to baseball.” went right straight to baseball,” Gibbs continued. “The baseball season didn’t start until you got done with spring football. If we got through the 19th, 20th, whatever that weekend fell on, you started playing games the following week in baseball. And you only played 25 games in baseball. My junior year we were 22-3.” College baseball has changed a lot since Gibbs played and he coached the Rebels. With the change in bats, teams are now rely-

or third baseman or a coach on third base, I think the safety part got caught in the killing of the bat too. “Really it gets back down to baseball. You see more bunting now, you see the little ball being played more like it was with some teams years ago where you bunt and move a guy over. You get some guys that can run, you steal base or you hit them over,” Gibbs added. SEE GIBBS - Continued on Page 69


2013 OLE MISS BASEBALL

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$5 NON-CONFERENCE SINGLE GAME TICKET

$75 GENERAL ADMISSION SEASON TICKET (OUTFIELD)

$10 CONFERENCE SINGLE GAME TICKET

OLEMISSBSB.COM FOR PROMOTIONS AND OTHER INFO

MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 43


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Ole Miss REBELS QUICK FACTS >

Schedule

Coach: Mike Bianco Arena: Oxford-University Stadium Capacity: 10,323 2012 Record: 37-26 Overall, 14-16 SEC, 25-8 Home, 8-14 Away, 4-4 Neutral Tournament: NCAA

Feb. 15............................TCU Feb. 16............................TCU Feb. 17............................TCU Feb. 20................... UT-Martin Feb. 22.............. Rhode Island Feb. 23.............. Rhode Island Feb. 24.............. Rhode Island Feb. 26....................Memphis Mar. 1................ @Florida Intl. Mar. 2................ @Florida Intl. Mar. 3................ @Florida Intl. Mar. 5................ SE Louisiana Mar. 6................ SE Louisiana Mar. 8..................... Lipscomb Mar. 9..................... Lipscomb Mar. 10................... Lipscomb Mar. 12..............@LA-Monroe Mar. 13..............@LA-Monroe Mar. 15................. @Arkansas Mar. 16................. @Arkansas Mar. 17................. @Arkansas Mar. 20............@Arkansas St. Mar. 22................ Texas A&M Mar. 23................ Texas A&M Mar. 24................ Texas A&M Mar. 27...............Arkansas St. Mar. 29..................... @Florida Mar. 30..................... @Florida Mar. 31..................... @Florida Apr. 2....................@Memphis Apr. 5...................... Vanderbilt Apr. 6...................... Vanderbilt Apr. 7...................... Vanderbilt Apr. 9.................Miss. State # Apr. 12...................... Alabama Apr. 13...................... Alabama Apr. 14...................... Alabama Apr. 16......... Southern Miss # Apr. 19................@Tennessee Apr. 20................@Tennessee Apr. 21................@Tennessee Apr. 24.....Arkansas-Pine Bluff Apr. 26..................... Kentucky Apr. 27..................... Kentucky Apr. 28..................... Kentucky May 1.................... Saint Louis May 3....................... @Auburn May 4....................... @Auburn May 5....................... @Auburn May 10..................Miss. State May 11..................Miss. State May 12..................Miss. State May 14......... @Southern Miss May 16.......................... @LSU May 17.......................... @LSU May 18.......................... @LSU May 21-26.......... SEC Tourney # - Trustmark Park, Pearl, MS

By JOHN DAVIS Contributing Writer

I

t may be hard to believe, but the 2012 season was arguably the most mentally draining of any for Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. Even though the Rebels won 37 games and advanced to the Southeastern Conference and NCAA Tournaments, Bianco admitted the year was quite a drain, a mental grind for both the players and himself. The biggest reason why, Bianco has pinpointed, was because the Rebels didn’t make the NCAA Tournament in 2011 and his young team, one that only had four players on the roster that competed in a postseason game, wasn’t going to let that happen again. “Sitting here last year at this time (December), I didn’t realize what not making the NCAA Tournament would be for us. Obviously when we didn’t make it was a big blow because we had made it eight, nine years in a row and then we miss and you’re so close, you’re a few outs away from being the SEC West champion and four outs later, you end up losing and not making it to the SEC Tournament and end up not making the NCAA Tournament,” Bianco said. “That was a big blow at the time but I didn’t know what kind of impact it would have on the players and I probably didn’t realize just before the season started or during the year

Auston Bousfield but when we finished the year, it was one of the most grueling, exhausting seasons I think mentally on everyone. “I think that team made it their mission that it’s not going to happen again to them. We weren’t not going to make the postseason. We went so long and were such a perennial, it used to be a question of whether you were going to be hosting or a national seed and then all of sudden — and it happens to everybody — you don’t make it. That’s happened to everybody in this league since I’ve been here except South Carolina,” Bianco continued. “I think when

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we got back from A&M and the regional last year, for the first time it started to hit me after the player exit meetings. You start to realize that we only had four guys on that field last year that had been to postseason. Now we had gone eight or nine years in a row but on that field (Bobby) Wahl had never gone, (Mike) Mayers had never gone, (Austin) Anderson, (Zach) Kirksey. The only guys that had been before were (Tanner) Mathis, (Matt) Snyder and (Alex) Yarbrough and most of them, they’ve only been on the road. The only guy that was here when we hosted was (Brett)


Win-Loss record when... Overall .......................... 37-26 Conference ................... 14-16 Non-Conference ........... 23-10 Home games .................. 25-8 Away games ................... 8-14 Neutral site ....................... 4-4 Day games .................... 23-12 Night games ................. 14-14 vs Left starter ............... 13-13 vs Right starter ............. 24-13 1-Run games .................... 5-6 2-Run games .................... 5-4 5+Run games ................. 15-8 Extra innings ..................... 1-1 Shutouts ........................... 9-4 Scoring 0-2 runs .............. 6-12 ... 3-5 runs ....................... 5-13 ... 6-9 runs ....................... 17-1 ... 10+ runs ....................... 9-0 Opponent 0-2 runs .......... 20-1 ... 3-5 runs ..................... 14-11 ... 6-9 runs ......................... 3-8 ... 10+ runs ....................... 0-6 Scored in 1st inning ........ 19-4 Opp. scored in 1st ............ 7-9 Scores first ..................... 27-7 Opp. scores first ........... 10-19 After 6 leading ................ 30-4 ... trailing ......................... 2-20 ... tied ................................ 5-2 After 7 leading ................ 30-5 ... trailing ......................... 2-19 ... tied ................................ 3-2 After 8 leading ................ 33-2 ... trailing ......................... 1-23 ... tied ................................ 1-1 Hit 0 home runs ........... 20-19 ... 1 home run ................... 7-6 ... 2+ home runs ............. 10-1 Opponent 0 home runs . 28-11 ... 1 home run ................. 6-11 ... 2+ HRs ......................... 3-4 Made 0 errors ............... 19-10 ... 1 error ......................... 11-9 ... 2+ errors ....................... 7-7 Opp. made 0 errors ........ 6-11 ... 1 error ....................... 17-13 ... 2+ errors ..................... 14-2 Out-hit opponent ............ 34-6 Out-hit by opponent ........ 2-15 Hits are tied ...................... 1-5

COACH MIKE BIANCO Huber and he was a redshirt and Snyder as a freshman.” Ole Miss ended up advancing the title game of the College Station Regional at Texas A&M before falling to TCU. While the end result was a positive, the young team is more battle tested and mature and much more experienced heading into the 2013 opener on Feb. 15 against the Horned Frogs. “This year’s team will have over 20 guys that have been to posteason and in our sport, that’s amazing. People talk about basketball and all the one-and-done guys, that’s only like five guys in the country. The majority of college basketball players are there for four years. In football they’re there for four and five years. Our rosters flip over so quickly that if you miss one year, all of sudden all the guys that have played in regionals and super regionals are gone,” Bianco said. “I think that was a big deal so now Bobby Wahl, when he pitched at A&M

last year, the ace of the staff, the biggest moment he had ever experienced in an Ole Miss baseball uniform was losing in Fayetteville. When you start looking at it like that, it’s a big deal. I think when we beat A&M at their place, the game before the championship game, we start to say ‘hey, we can do this.’ I think that was the first time they started to understand they could do it. I think you’re looking at a team this year that has a lot more experience and a lot more confidence and a team that sees themselves as one that can contend not only for the Southeastern Conference championship but a team that can get to Omaha.” If the Rebels are going to make a return to postseason and break through to play in the annual College World Series, Wahl, a junior right-hander, and Mayers, a junior right-hander, are going to have to lead the way on the mound. Both standouts were held out of the fall as a precaution

due to pitching so many innings over the spring and summer. The end result of them missing time was the emergence of sophomore right-hander Chris Ellis, who heads into the spring slated as the final starter on the weekend. “Last year’s team really lacked identity. This year’s team, I think when you return guys like Mayers, Wahl and Huber, you certainly look for the identity of this team to be pitching. On the mound, as we’re talking it’s early December, but you would think that Bobby would be the Friday night guy and Mike would be the Saturday guy and because of the fall, Chris Ellis kind of separated himself from the rest of the guys to be the No. 3 guy. We expect Brett Huber, who is tied for the all-time saves lead, to be at the back end of the bullpen,” Bianco said. “We return a lot of guys on the mound that pitched last year and pitched significant innings, 30-plus innings. Some were good outings, some weren’t as good but they pitched on the big stage of the Southeastern Conference. Guys like (Josh) Laxer and Hawtin Buchanan, Aaron Greenwood and Tanner Bailey, these were all new guys in the program last year. When you return that many guys that pitched and pitched significant innings, to me that’s a big thing for our bullpen.” PITCHING Out of the bullpen, Bianco like the way junior left-hander Jeremy Massie and sophomore Scott Weathersby looked in the fall. Bianco also felt like Laxer and Buchanan were ready to take another step and be solid mid-week starters. “I think Laxer and Buchanan are kind of on the cusp of taking that next step much like Ellis did. They’re all great but when are they going to pitch great here? They all have expectations but when you do you take that step that Bobby Wahl did and Mike Mayers did, that they all take. We don’t know. It looks like Ellis has taken that step but those guys are the next couple of guys that are on the cusp,” Bianco said. “There is a junior college left-hander, Austin Blunt, that hasn’t pitched yet because he came in with a

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stress fracture in his forearm. He’s a guy that’s going to have an opportunity because we’re light on left handers and another guy who pitched very well for Northwest Mississippi Community College, Jeremy Massie, he’s had a terrific fall. “He’s a guy that’s always beaten us and we’ve always struggled with, a short lefthander that guys don’t like to face and now we’ve finally got one,” Bianco added. “A kid in Scott Weathersby that’s been in the program for a couple of years and has an outstanding fall and could be a righty setup guy. He has a bunch of different arm slots and he’s very difficult on right handers. There is as much depth on this staff as we’ve had in a long time. It reminds me a lot of the ‘05 staff with (Mark) Holliman and (Matt) Maloney and (Eric) Fowler and (Stephen) Head.” Offensively and in the field, the Rebels return a bevy of starters, including the top five outfielders, top two catchers and the team’s starting third baseman (Andrew Mistone) and shortstop (Austin Anderson). POSITION PLAYERS “When you go to the position players, I think one of the things that I think the people will be surprised about is that while we lose three position players in Kirksey, Yarbrough and Snyder, we basically return all the rest of the starters. When you look around the infield and the outfield, people are going to be surprised that my gosh, they do return a lot of position players,” Bianco said. “We return Mistone at third base, Austin Anderson at shortstop that has platooned and been in the league for two years. He had a terrific fall and we’re excited for him entering his junior campaign. Around the outfield, we return all five outfielders that played at some point, Mathis, (Will) Jamison, (Auston) Bousfield with Preston Overbey and Senquez Golson. “At first base, the likely starter would be Sikes Orvis. But if not Sikes, Will Allen. Then at catcher Stuart Turner, Austin Knight and Will Allen.” The positions that is the most open coming out of the fall is second base where three players are vying to start. “We have Lance Wilson, who was a shortstop from an Alabama junior college and also fighting for that position is John Gatlin who was a designated hitter for us some last year. He played shortstop at Itawamba (Community College) and some third base for us last year,” Bianco said. “Jake Overbey, Wilson and Gatlin, we feel very comfortable with those three. Right now if this was the first game, we would probably mix and match and see who actually takes the position over. We have 46 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

PRESTON OVERBY

“...I think you’re looking at a team this year that has a lot more experience and a lot more confidence and a team that sees themselves as one that can contend not only for the Southeastern Conference championship but a team that can get to Omaha.” some time when we get back in January. We have three weeks of intrasquads and if somebody clearly takes it at that point, that would be nice.” Ole Miss, overall, is more athletic than they have been in recent years, Bianco said, and a stat that he feels will see a big jump this year are stolen bases. “We’re a little smaller but we’re as athletic and we run as well as we ever have here, especially the outfield guys. We’ve never been this fast before. When you’re talking all of those guys running under a 6.5 (second) 60 (yard dash). The one negative of the fall was we didn’t hit a lot of home runs but guess what, neither did anybody else,” Bianco said. “We’ll have some guys that hit in the middle of the lineup, Turner, Allen, Bousfield is going to be a middle-of-the-lineup guy, Gatlin has power, Overbey. There are some physical guys that are going to be in the lineup but I think the

guys that are in the front of the lineup and in the back of the lineup will be a little more athletic. “To me one of the biggest things when we talk about stealing bases is experience. It’s not only about teams that have speed. The teams that have veterans, guys that have not only been in the league, but guys like Bousfield always seems to steal more bases again not because they are faster but because they’re not worried, they’re more confident, their jumps are better and they’re more aggressive,” Bianco continued. “When you look at Bos and Mathis and guys that have been in the league before, I think they’re going to be more productive on the base paths.” Defensively, Ole Miss had a fantastic year statistically. The Rebels fielded .976 and only committed 56 errors, or less than one a game. “One of the things about last year’s team was we all talk about being able to defend to


win but when you defend, not a lot of people talk about it. They talk about dominant pitching, they talk about scoring runs and great offense but last year was the highest we ever fielded at .976. We’ve had several teams that were .973 to .975 but we’ve never fielded that well and I don’t know if we’ll be able to field that again because that’s just a great statistic,” Bianco said. “It’s hard to believe that Mistone will play another year where he only makes three errors. It’s hard to believe that whoever plays second base will only have two errors like Yarbrough did. Matt Snyder played first base and only had one error. Three of our infield positions had five, six errors. “That’s not likely to happen but we can be just as good defensively as far as you win games and talent wise. I think when you return the majority of the guys and the majority of the infield and outfield, I think we’ll be better defensively behind the plate, so I do think this class could be as good as last year.” - MSM

WILL ALLEN

the ROSTER NO..... NAME............................................................... POS.............................................B/T.............................................HT/WT..................................................YR....................................................................... HOMETOWN (LAST SCHOOL) 1...... Preston Overbey................................IF/OF............................... 6-4/210...................................R/R........................................JR-1L........................Jackson, Tenn. (University School of Jackson) 2...... Jacob Waguespack............................ RHP................................ 6-6/215...................................R/R....................................... FR-HS............................................... Prairieville, La. (Dutchtown HS) 3...... Austin Knight.........................................C................................. 5-11/205..................................R/R.......................................SO-HS............................................. Hattiesburg, Miss. (Sumrall HS) 4...... Will Jamison.........................................OF................................. 6-0/170................................... L/L.......................................SO-HS..................................Memphis, Tenn. (Evangelical Christian) 6...... Lance Wilson........................................ IF.................................. 6-0/185...................................R/R.......................................... JR................................................... Tuscaloosa, AL (Shelton State) 7...... Senquez Golson...................................OF................................. 6-0/180...................................R/R.......................................SO-HS..............................................Pascagoula, Miss. (Pascagoula) 8...... Austin Anderson................................... IF.................................. 6-0/190...................................L/R........................................JR-1L............................................... Sorrento, Fla. (Mount Dora HS) 9...... Auston Bousfield..................................OF................................ 5-10/170..................................R/R.......................................SO-HS...................................................Oakland, Fla. (West Orange) 10.... Chris Ellis............................................ RHP................................ 6-5/195...................................L/R.......................................SO-HS................................................ Birmingham, Ala. (Spain Park) 11.... Luke Gibbs........................................... IF.................................. 5-9/162...................................L/R.......................................... FR.............................................................. Oxford,MS (Oxford HS) 12.... Tanner Mathis......................................OF................................ 5-11/180.................................. L/L....................................... SR-2L.........................................................Lake Charles, La. (Barbe) 13.... Scott Ashford......................................LHP................................ 6-4/220................................... L/L.......................................... JR.............................................. Baton Rouge, LA (Pearl River CC) 14.... Cameron Dishon..................................OF................................ 5-10/170..................................R/R.......................................... FR.................................................. Beaumont, TX (Bridge City, TX) 16.... Matt Denny.........................................LHP................................ 6-1/215................................... L/L.......................................... FR............................................... Jackson, MS (Jackson Academy) 18.... Brady Bramlett................................... RHP................................ 6-4/245...................................R/R.......................................... FR.......................................................... Bartlett, TN (Arlington HS) 19.... Bobby Wahl........................................ RHP................................ 6-3/200...................................R/R........................................JR-1L........................................... Springfield, Va. (West Springfield) 20.... Josh Laxer.......................................... RHP................................ 6-2/210...................................R/R.......................................SO-HS..........................................Madison, Miss. (Madison Central) 21.... Hawtin Buchanan............................... RHP................................ 6-8/250...................................L/R.......................................SO-HS...........................................................Biloxi, Miss. (Biloxi HS) 22.... Jake Overbey....................................... IF.................................. 6-2/185...................................R/R.......................................SO-HS.......................Jackson, Tenn. (University School of Jackson) 24.... Sikes Orvis..........................................IF/C................................ 6-2/220...................................L/R.......................................SO-HS.................................................... Orlando, Fla. (Freedom HS) 25.... Andrew Mistone.................................. IF.................................. 6-0/190...................................R/R....................................... SR-JC............................................... La Verne, Calif. (Rio Hondo CC) 26.... Stuart Turner.........................................C.................................. 6-2/220...................................R/R.......................................... JR.............................................................Eunice, LA (LSU-Eunice) 28.... Mike Mayers...................................... RHP................................ 6-3/195...................................R/R........................................JR-1L...................................................Grove City, Ohio (Grove City) 29.... Sam Smith.......................................... RHP................................ 6-4/210...................................S/R.......................................SO-HS........................................................Lake Charles, La. (Barbe) 30.... Will Allen.............................................C/IF................................ 6-3/218...................................R/R........................................JR-1L...................................................... Gainesville, Fla. (Buchholz) 31.... Tanner Bailey...................................... RHP................................ 6-7/225...................................R/R.................................... RS SR-RS........................................... Little Rock, Ark. (Texarkana CC) 32.... Austin Blunt.........................................LHP................................ 6-1/205................................... L/L.......................................... JR...............................................................Mesquite, TX (Howard) 33.... Tyler Jackson.........................................C.................................................................................L/R.......................................... FR....................................... Lexington, KY (Lexington Catholic HS) 34.... Christian Helsel.................................... IF.................................. 6-0/194...................................R/R.......................................... FR....................................................Altoona, PA (Altoona Area HS) 35.... Jeremy Massie....................................LHP............................... 5-10/185.................................. L/L.......................................... JR........................................................Sardis, MS (Northwest MS) 36.... John Gatlin........................................... IF.................................. 6-4/210...................................R/R....................................... SR-JC...................................................Tupelo, Miss. (Itawamba CC) 37.... Connor Jordan.................................... RHP................................ 6-4/204...................................R/R.......................................... FR......................................................Houston, TX (Katy Taylor HS) 38.... Brett Huber........................................ RHP................................ 6-3/210...................................R/R....................................... SR-2L................................................. Belleville, Ill. (Althoff Catholic) 39.... Casey Greene..................................... RHP................................ 6-2/190...................................R/R.................................... RS SO-RS................................... Olive Branch, Miss. (Desoto Central) 40.... Scott Weathersby.............................. RHP................................ 6-2/175...................................R/R.................................... RS SO-RS............................................ Hattiesburg, Miss. (Oak Grove) 42.... Holt Perdzock........................................C.................................................................................L/R.......................................... FR...............................Memphis, TN (Memphis University School) 44.... Aaron Greenwood.............................. RHP................................ 6-4/200...................................R/R........................................JR-JC.................................... Lewisburg, Miss. (Bossier Parrish CC)

INNING BY INNING TEAMS Ole Miss Opponents

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 EX Total 49 33 36 38 49 31 44 41 14 3 338 38 18 25 35 30 35 23 41 11 1 257 MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 47


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Southern Miss GOLDEN EAGLES QUICK FACTS >

Schedule

Coach: Scott Berry Arena: Pete Taylor Park Capacity: 5,036 2012 Record: 32-24 Overall, 14-10 SEC, 20-8 Home, 9-11 Away, 3-5 Neutral Tournament: NONE

Feb. 15..................... Missouri Feb. 16..................... Missouri Feb. 17..................... Missouri Feb. 19.................. @Alabama Feb. 22..........Eastern Illinois* Feb. 23..........Missouri State* Feb. 24............. Alcorn State* Feb. 26..............@LA-Monroe Mar. 1........................... @Troy Mar. 2........................... @Troy Mar. 3........................... @Troy Mar. 6..........@South Alabama Mar. 8................ LA-Lafayette Mar. 9................ LA-Lafayette Mar. 10.............. LA-Fafayette Mar. 12...............Miss. State# Mar. 15........Central Arkansas Mar. 16........Central Arkansas Mar. 17........Central Arkansas Mar. 20.................@Auburn% Mar. 22............................Rice Mar. 23............................Rice Mar. 24............................Rice Mar. 26...........South Alabama Mar. 28.........................@UCF Mar. 29.........................@UCF Mar. 30.........................@UCF Apr. 3.............................LSU^ Apr. 5........................... Tulane Apr. 6........................... Tulane Apr. 7........................... Tulane Apr. 9..............@New Orleans Apr. 10...............New Orleans Apr. 12...................... Marshall Apr. 13...................... Marshall Apr. 14...................... Marshall Apr. 16................... Ole Miss# Apr. 19..................@Memphis Apr. 20..................@Memphis Apr. 21..................@Memphis Apr. 24...................... Alabama Apr. 26............................ UAB Apr. 27............................ UAB Apr. 28............................ UAB Apr. 30..................LA-Monroe May 3.............. @East Carolina May 4.............. @East Carolina May 5.............. @East Carolina May 10... S. Illinois-Edwardsville May 11... S. Illinois-Edwardsville May 12... S. Illinois-Edwardsville May 14..................... Ole Miss May 16................... @Houston May 17................... @Houston May 18................... @Houston May 22-26....... CUSA Tourney

By LANNY MIXON Contributing Writer

W

hen forth year head baseball coach Scott Berry and the 2012 Southern Miss Baseball Eagles failed to make a regional for the first time in a decade it would have been easy for Berry to get mad, many coaches would have. It would have been easy to turn the blame towards others, we’ve seen that time and again. It would have been easy for Berry and his staff to sulk and wonder what might have been. But, instead Berry, his assistant coaches and the team simply went back to work. As Berry began working to fine tune every aspect of an already wildly successful program his assistant coaches hit the road in search of talented players who would make Southern Miss better in both the short and long term. A number of underclassmen headed out to the various collegiate summer leagues that give players the opportunity to further hone their skills. The Southern Miss baseball team entered the season in much better shape than they had in the past and Berry gives a lot of credit to a new strength and condition program installed by former Strength and Conditioning coach Shelton Stevens. “We’ve changed our approach in the weight room,” Berry said. “We’re working out early in the

COACH SCOTT BERRY mornings this year. They are in the weight room at 6:00 AM on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. At first the kids hated it, but now they’re used to it.” Southern Miss also began to take into account the nutritional needs of their student athletes as a part of the overall strength and conditioning program. “We’ve invested in replenishment supplements like protein shakes after workouts.,” he said. “Also, we used to practice then go lift after we were tired and it turned into a grind, our guys were not able to keep on good weight, we’re working a lot smarter now.”

48 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

Being in better shape helped the Eagles be in a better frame of mind as they worked through fall practice. That focus allowed the Eagles to really concentrate on the upcoming season as they set goals for the program over the next year. And don’t think for a minute that falling short of making a regional in 2012 has been lost, it serves as a constant reminder that the team can’t lose focus heading into the Spring. The Eagles got a taste of Omaha and the College World Series in 2009, when the program made their first ever appearance. Only

*-USM Invitational, #Trustmark Park, %Hank Aaron Stadium, ^Zephyr Field


Win-Loss record when... Overall .......................... 32-24 Conference ................... 14-10 Non-Conference ........... 18-14 Home games .................. 20-8 Away games ................... 9-11 Neutral site ....................... 3-5 Day games .................... 20-11 Night games ................. 12-13 vs Left starter ................. 11-6 vs Right starter ............. 21-18 1-Run games .................. 10-8 2-Run games .................... 8-3 5+Run games ................. 10-9 Extra innings ..................... 4-0 Shutouts ........................... 6-3 Scoring 0-2 runs ................ 8-7 ... 3-5 runs ....................... 9-12 ... 6-9 runs ......................... 7-5 ... 10+ runs ....................... 8-0 Opponent 0-2 runs .......... 19-3 ... 3-5 runs ....................... 10-7 ... 6-9 runs ......................... 3-7 ... 10+ runs ....................... 0-7 Scored in 1st inning ........ 15-5 Opp. scored in 1st ............ 8-9 Scores first ..................... 23-7 Opp. scores first ............. 9-17 After 6 leading ................ 20-5 ... trailing ......................... 3-18 ... tied ................................. 9-1 After 7 leading ................ 22-1 ... trailing ......................... 1-22 ... tied ................................. 7-1 After 8 leading ................. 25-1 ... trailing ......................... 1-22 ... tied ................................. 4-0 Hit 0 home runs ............ 22-21 ... 1 home run .................... 9-3 ... 2+ home runs ................ 1-0 Opponent 0 home runs... 25-16 ... 1 home run .................... 7-4 ... 2+ HRs .......................... 0-4 Made 0 errors .................. 16-5 ... 1 error .......................... 7-11 ... 2+ errors ........................ 9-8 Opp. made 0 errors ........... 6-9 ... 1 error .......................... 9-11 ... 2+ errors ....................... 9-8 Out-hit opponent ............. 20-7 Out-hit by opponent ......... 9-15 Hits are tied ....................... 3-2

MICHAEL STERLING Scott Berry and hitting coach Chad Calliet remain from that magical year, but almost every player on the team watched the Eagles on television that season. “We know our potential,” short stop Michael Sterling said. “We know what we are capable of doing with guys like Mason (Robbins) hitting the ball and guys like (Andrew) Pierce and (Jake) Drehoff pitching.” “Our goal is the same every year and that’s getting to Omaha,” he continued. “But, we know our potential this year.” PITCHING Pitching is vital if the Eagles are to make a deep post-season run, and right now they look to have as much depth as any Southern Miss team has had in a decade. Returning a core of solid pitchers that include Friday and Saturday starters in Pierce and Drehoff, Mason Robbins a talented two-way player earned

the nod on Sunday’s late in the season and is back for his sophomore year. What Berry saw in the fall also gave him ore reason to be optimistic in regards to his pitching staff. “I feel good about how we finished the fall,” Berry said. “Our pitching was pleasantly surprising. Even though we didn’t have the ending result we wanted last year it’s always good to return your starting rotation.” “I’ve really liked the two JUCO transfers (Conner) Fisk and (A.J.) Glasshof in the fall,” Berry said. “The have filled up the zone and haven’t been intimidated.” With Fisk having such a strong spring it gives the Eagles options for a Sunday starter. Fisk could take over the Sunday starting roll allowing Robbins to move to mid-week where he would be more rested than playing two games in the field on Friday and Saturday then being asked to

start on the mound on Sunday. “I don’t know yet,” Berry said when asked about that aspect of the rotation. “I know last year he (Robbins) struggled to give us five innings after playing complete games in the field on Friday and Saturday. He always gave us quality starts but would hit that wall in the fifth inning.” Glasshof is a guy who could be utilized as a middle relief pitcher or as a spot starter. Cameron Giannini who pitched sparingly for the Eagles a year ago is finally back from Tommy John’s surgery and looks to compete for major innings, he’s topped out at 92 mph this fall. Sophomore Taylor Nunez could be a wild-card for the Eagles this year. The talented 6-foot4, 195-pounder could have the livest arm and most wicked offspeed stuff on the team. If he can put all the pieces together it would be a huge shot in the arm for the pitching staff. The Eagles also signed freshman righty Jake Winston who could see time in the infield if the need arises. They also inked Daniel Wilenski (Gulf Coast CC) and Sean Bucholtz (Logan College). Bucholtz is likely to redshirt while recovering from an injury. Bradley Roney won the closer job a year ago as a true freshman and returns for his sophomore campaign. He is also locked in a stiff competition to start at third base. “We have a bunch of guys who are in the same basket right now,” Berry said. “Wilenski is really going to help us this year and we’re finally getting to see what Bucholtz can do. We didn’t have him in the spring but he’s been throwing to live hitters recently.” Junior Boomer Scarborough may finally be coming into his own after pitching coach Michael Federicco tweaked his delivery. “Boomer is starting to figure himself out,” Berry said. “It’s hard enough to compete against the game then when you’re trying to compete against yourself and the game it’s just too much.” HITTING The Eagles return a solid core at the plate. Senior Dillon Day will be in center field and likely

MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 49


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hit lead-off for the Eagles. Michael Sterling was the leading candidate to win the shortstop position and hit second in the line-up. “He won it in the fall,” Berry said of Sterling’s play at short-stop. “He played the position as consistant as anyone we’ve had the past few years. Even Coach (Corky) Palmer said he saw some glimpses out there of what he used to see from (Brian) Dozier.” That’s high praise considering that Dozier will likely be the starting second baseman for the Minnesota Twins this coming summer. “Sterling plays the game full speed, the way it’s supposed to be played.” Berry continued. “He’s highly competitive at the plate and on defense.” Mason Robbins returns after a phenomenal freshman campaign and a strong showing over the summer in the Cape Cod League. He’ll play right field and probably hit in the three-hole. He’ll also be a regular in the pitching rotation. Senior Blake Brown and true freshman Tim Lynch have both hit the ball well during the fall and are very good defensively at first base. Both can play third base or DH. Second baseman Issac Rodriguez has been on fire at the plate in the fall and part of that could be because true freshman Nick Dawson has given him some stiff competition at the plate and on the field. The hottest competition of the fall was at third base where Bradley Roney and Travis Creel are each looking to earn innings for the Eagles. Both have exhibited steady defensive play. Creel is more consistent at the plate while Roney showed more power. Left field is a position where the Eagles have a log-jam with Ryan Ellis, Andrew Furr, Connor Barron and Breck Kline all seeing time in the fall. Ellis also plays first base while Kline can play almost any position on the field. “Kline is going to do for us this year what Michael Sterling did for us last year,” Berry said. “He can play just about anywhere.” Senior Chase Fowler and Sophomore Austin Roussel will share the duties behind the plate this year. JUCO transfer David Walley will add quality depth at the catcher position. Senior Jared Bales is recovering from a back injury and could work in at first base or DH when healthy. “We’ve got plenty of left-handed hitting,” Berry said. “It certainly stacks us up against righties, but it could handicap us against lefties. Some of our lefties will just have to hit against lefties, I am not one of the guys that believes that lefties just can’t hit lefties.” “We really need (Jared) Bales to be healthy,” Berry said. “He says he feels good right now, 50 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

ANDREW PIERCE

“We know our potential,” short stop Michael Sterling said. “We know what we are capable of doing .....Our goal is the same every year and that’s getting to Omaha,” he continued. “But, we know our potential this year.” but he’s been on lock down and hasen’t done anything since late September.” Bales has suffered with nagging back injuries the past year and a half, but looks to enter the season as healthy as he has been since his second year in the program. SCHEDULE The Eagles will once again play one of the

most competitive schedules in the South. In addition to the always challenging C-USA schedule the Eagles open the 2013 season by hosting SEC member Missouri in a three game set in Hattiesburg. “Coach Chad Calliet makes the schedule,” Berry said. “I approve it, but that was a series that came about because of his relationship with one of their assistants. We needed a


MASON ROBBINS

the ROSTER

strong non-conference home series this year and they were looking for a strong home opponent next year.” The Eagles will also play host to the Southern Miss Invitational this year, the first time the Eagles have hosted a Tournament in Hattiesburg in a number of years. Alcorn State, Eastern Illinios and Missouri State will take part in the even. Regional rivals ULM, Troy, South Alabama and Louisiana return to the Eagle schedule along with home series against SIUEdwardsville and Central Arkansas. The Eagles will play mid-week neutral site contests against Auburn (Hank Aaron Stadium, Mobile) LSU (Zephyr Field, New Orleans), Mississippi and Miss State (Trustmark Park, Pearl). “We would love to play some of those games at our home park,” Berry said. “But, right now Ole Miss is the only team willing to do that.” The C-USA Tournament will be played at Reckling Park in Houston, Texas this spring the home field of Rice University. - MSM

NO..NAME..................................POS........................ B/T........................HT/WT................................... YR.................................................HOMETOWN (LAST SCHOOL) 1...... Chase Fowler..................................C............................... B/R............................ 6-1/183........................................... JR............................................................. Cumming, Ga (South Forysth HS) 2...... Ashley Graeter.............................. INF............................. R/R............................ 6-1/190........................................... SR............................................................. Poplarville, Miss (Pearl River CC) 3...... Bradley Roney..............................INF/P............................ R/R............................ 6-1/190........................................... FR............................................................. Wetumpka, Ala. (Wetumpka HS) 4...... Breck Kline.................................... INF............................. R/R........................... 5-11/180.......................................... FR...................................................................... Slidell, La. (Northshore HS) 5...... Andrew Furr...................................OF...............................L/L............................ 6-2/201........................................ RS FR........................................................... Ackerman, Miss. (Ackerman HS) 6...... James McMahon...................... INF/RHP......................... R/R............................ 6-0/200........................................ RS FR........................................................ Hattiesburg, Miss. (Oak Grove HS) 7...... Connor Barron............................... INF..............................L/R............................ 6-3/175........................................... FR............................................................... Hattiesburg, Miss. (Sumrall HS) 8...... Jay Myrick.................................... RHP............................. R/R............................ 5-9/160........................................ RS SO...................................................... Spanish Fort, Ala (Spanish Fort HS) 11.... Luke Lowery..............................LHP/OF...........................S/L............................ 6-0/205........................................... FR......................................................................Sumrall, Miss. (Sumrall HS) 12.... Andrew Pierce.............................. RHP............................. R/R............................ 6-4/160........................................... JR......................................................................... Stringer, Miss. (Jones JC) 14.... Dillon Day......................................LHP..............................L/L............................ 6-0/160........................................... JR....................................................................Geismar, La. (Dutchtown HS) 15.... Michael Sterling............................ INF............................. R/R........................... 5-11/165....................................... RS FR................................................................Meridian, Miss. (Meridian HS) 16.... Isaac Rodriguez............................. INF............................. R/R........................... 5-10/189.......................................... JR................................................................. Weston, Fla. (Cypress Bay HS) 17.... Travis Creel.................................... INF............................. R/R............................ 6-2/190.........................................RS JR.............................................Ocean Springs, Miss. (Ocean Springs HS) 18.... Austin Roussel................................C................................L/R............................ 6-1/196........................................ RS FR.........................................................................Hester, La. (Lutcher HS) 19.... Joe Martin......................................OF.............................. R/R............................ 5-9/189...........................................SO......................................................................... Zachary, La. (Zachary HS) 20.... Boomer Scarborough................... RHP............................. R/R............................ 6-2/251...........................................SO................................................. Pass Christian, Miss. (St. Stanislaus HS) 21.... Kameron Brunty.............................OF.............................. R/R............................ 6-2/180........................................... SR............................................................ Gulf Breeze, Fla (Gulf Breeze HS) 22.... Blake Brown.................................. INF............................. R/R............................ 6-5/215........................................... JR................................................................... Semmes, Ala. (Pensacola JC) 23.... Josh Rogers..................................LHP..............................R/L........................... 5-10/160..........................................SO.....................................................Jackson, Miss. (Hillcrest Christian HS) 24.... Paxton King...................................LHP..............................R/L............................ 6-2/200.........................................RS JR.......................................................Brookhaven, Miss (Brookhaven HS) 25.... Mason Robbins............................OF/P.............................L/L............................ 6-2/196........................................... FR....................................................Leakesville, Miss. (George County HS) 26.... Matt Warren................................. RHP............................. R/R............................ 6-5/209........................................ RS SR............................................................................Petal, Miss. (Petal HS) 27.... Brock Hunt...................................P/OF............................ R/R............................ 6-2/180........................................... FR......................................................Madison, Miss. (Madison Central HS) 28.... Cody Livingston.............................LHP..............................L/L............................ 6-3/188........................................... FR................................................... Brandon, Miss. (Northwest Rankin HS) 29.... Jake Drehoff..................................LHP..............................L/L............................ 6-4/185........................................ RS FR........................................................ Alpharetta, Ga. (South Forsyth HS) 30.... Taylor Nunez................................. RHP............................. R/R............................ 6-4/192........................................... FR............................................................................ Slidell, La. (Salmen HS) 32.... Jared Bales......................................C............................... R/R............................ 6-3/225........................................ RS SO...............................................................Picayune, Miss (Picayune HS) 33.... Josh Thomason............................ RHP............................. R/R............................ 6-4/220........................................... SR............................................................... Oxford, Miss. (Navarro College) 35.... Cameron Giannini......................... RHP............................. R/R............................ 6-3/234........................................ RS SO................................................................ Danville, Va. (San Jacinto JC) 36.... Nick Johnson................................ RHP............................. R/R............................ 6-2/196........................................... FR.............................................................. Ridgeland, Miss. (Ridgeland HS) 37.... Cody Carroll.................................. RHP............................. R/R............................ 6-5/200........................................... FR............................................................... Mt. Juliet, Tenn. (Mt. Juliet HS) 38.... Chase Horn.................................. RHP............................. R/R............................ 6-1/194........................................... SR................................................ Alexander City, Ala. (Southern Union CC) 39.... Ryan Ellis......................................IF/OF.............................L/L............................ 6-1/206........................................... FR................................................................Columbia, Miss. (Columbia HS)

INNING BY INNING TEAMS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 EX Total Southern Miss 33 23 47 29 43 25 48 37 17 4 306 Opponents 30 27 18 25 33 29 47 17 18 0 244 MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 51


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Jackson State TIGERS QUICK FACTS >

Schedule

Coach: Omar Johnson 2012 Record: 34-17 Overall, 21-3 SWAC, 19-1 Home, 14-14 Away, 1-2 Neutral

Feb. 16-17.......Eastern Illinois

By WESLEY PETERSON

Feb. 22.....@Central Arkansas

Feb. 16-17..... Texas Southern Feb. 16-17.......Eastern Illinois Feb. 23.....@Central Arkansas

Jackson State Sports Information

Feb. 24.....@Central Arkansas

T

Feb. 27......................... @Troy

he 2012 version of the Jackson State baseball team did just about everything possible to position itself for a Southwestern Athletic Conference championship. The team set several individual and program milestones, competed against some of the best teams in the country and placed itself in position to earn the SWAC’s automatic bit to the NCAA playoffs. Last season, JSU finished as the No. 1 seed in the SWAC East Division with a 33-15 regular season record. 2012 marked the fifth time that one of head coach Omar Johnson’s team’s recorded 30-plus wins in a single season. The Tigers went an impressive 21-3 in conference play and dropped only a single game at Braddy Field (the team’s home field). JSU was also highly ranked in several NCAA statistical categories. JSU pitchers Quintavious Drains and Desmond Russell were ranked 1st and 2nd respectively in complete games. Drains was ranked 9th in the nation in victories with 11 and Russell finished 22nd nationally (10 victories). Glenn Walker was ranked 7th in stolen bases and Kendall Logan finished 9th in runs batted in. As a team the Tigers were 4th in stolen bases nationally. In SWAC rankings, Russell and Drains were the standard bearers. Russell led the league in earned run average (2.34) and Drains was

Mar. 2...........@Alabama A&M Mar. 3...........@Alabama A&M Mar. 5................. Loyola Univ. Mar. 8................MS Valley St. Mar. 9................MS Valley St. Mar. 12.................. @Missouri Mar. 14.................... @Kansas Mar. 16.........@Alabama State Mar. 17.........@Alabama State Mar. 20.............. SE Louisiana Mar. 23......................@Alcorn Mar. 24......................@Alcorn Mar. 26.........................Selma Mar. 30...... @UT Pan America Mar. 31...... @UT Pan America Apr. 5...............Alabama A&M Apr. 6...............Alabama A&M

STEPHEN CURTIS third (2.85). Drains’ 11 wins best in the SWAC and Russell’s 10-2 record was tops in the conference. Logan also led the SWAC in slugging percentage (.619), home runs (12) and runs batted in (59). PITCHING Last season, Jackson State leaned heavily on its pitching and defense to carry the team while the offense rounded out. This season JSU will be without half of its dynamic pitching duo. Drains graduated from the program, while Russell returns for his junior season. Russell has emerged

52 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

Apr. 9.............. @SE Louisiana

as arguably the best utility player on the SWAC. His 10-2 win/loss record was tops in the SWAC last season. As an infielder, he posted a .995 fielding percentage to go along with his .277 batting average. Jeremy Gray (RHP), Andre Rodriguez (RHP) and Chris Wingard all return to the JSU bullpen. Gray finished last season with a 1-0 record, Rodriguez made four appearances and had a 4.26 ERA and Wingard posted a 2-1 record.

Apr. 13............@MS Valley St.

POSITION PLAYERS The Tigers return eight regu-

May 12................Florida A&M

Apr. 14............@MS Valley St. Apr.17...............Wiley College Apr. 19.............Alabama State Apr. 20.............Alabama State Apr. 26................ Alcorn State Apr. 27................ Alcorn State May 3.............. Southern Univ. May 4........... @Southern Univ. May 8.................. @Grambling May 11................Florida A&M May 15-19.......SWAC Tourney


JOSE CRUZ lar position players from last season. Position players returning to JSU’s lineup include: Stephen Curtis (JR, IF), Gabriel Babineaux (SR, OF), Aneko Knowles (JR, OF), Sergio Para (JR, C), Jose Cruz (JR, C), Ethan Bright (SR, 1B) and Malcolm Tate (SR, 1B). Curtis got significant playing time last season. He played in 27 games and had 11 starts. He recorded a .227 batting average with 10 hits, 11 runs and five RBI. Babineaux also was a regular for the Tigers. He saw action in 27 games and had 21 starts. He finished with 19 hits, eight runs, two home runs and 11 RBI. He also had a 1.000 fielding percentage. Knowles played in 48 games with 43 starts. He posted a .280 batting average to go along with his 40 hits, 35 runs and 13 RBI. Para and Cruz combined to solidify the catcher’s position for JSU. Para played in 23 games and had 18 starts. He finished with 10 hits and five runs. Cruz played in 39 games and had 33 starts and recorded a .202 batting average. He had 20 hits, 15 runs and nine RBI in addition to a .989 fielding percentage. Bright played in 50 games and started 49 at first base. He had a .206 batting average, 35 hits, 21 runs, 10 doubles, four home runs and 22 RBI. He also posted a .990 fielding percentage. Malcolm Tate played in 30 games and had 19 starts. He was the designated hitter and saw action at first base. He finished the season with a .175 batting average, 10 hits, six runs and seven RBI. Other returning players include Phillip Harvey (SO, OF), Gary Thomas (R-FR, SS), Josue Deleon (SR, C), Wyatt Sutton (SO, C),

Willie Bradford (SO, OF) and Kiarious Hall (SR, P). These players will look to make significant contributions to the team this season. JSU lost the following players from last year’s team: Kendall Logan (.328 BA, 51 games played, 62 hits, 12 HR, 59 RBI), Frank Solis (.324 BA, 51 games played, 56 hits, 29 RBI), Charles Epperson (.314 BA, 49 games played, 59 hits, 4 HR, 36 RBI) and Glenn Walker (.287 BA, 50 games played, 49 hits, 18 RBI). Head coach Omar Johnson also brings in a promising group of newcomers. Five new pitchers will be added to the bullpen. Vincent Anthonia (FR, P), John Castillo (FR, P), Gary Foster (FR, P), Brandon Gregory (JR, P) and Alexander Juday (SO, P) will all vie for starting time this season. The infield will be bolstered by the additions of Bernard Brito (FR, SS), Nick Marigny (JR, IF) and Jeremy Scott (FR, IF). Depth will be added to the outfield with the following newcomers: Jakeel Daniels (FR, OF), Fred Hampton (JR, OF), Bryce Taylor (JR, OF) and Charles Tillery (JR, OF). THE SCHEDULE The Tigers will play a robust 2013 schedule. Non-conference opponents include Eastern Illinois, Central Arkansas, Troy, Loyola University, Missouri, Kansas, SE Louisiana, Selma, UT Pan America, Wiley College and Florida A&M. JSU will open the season with the JSU Tournament on February 16 at Braddy Field. The Tigers will go on their first road trip of the season, from February 22 through March

3. During that time JSU will face Central Arkansas, Troy and Alabama A&M. On March 5 the Tigers return to Jackson to host Loyola. In-state rival Mississippi Valley State will come to Braddy Field for a three game series (Mar. 8-9). JSU will travel to Columbia, Missouri to face the Missouri Tigers on March 12 and then head to Lawrence, Kansas to take on the Kansas Jayhawks on Mar. 13. The Tigers will then travel to Montgomery, Alabama to take on SWAC foe Alabama State (Mar. 16-17). SE Louisiana will visit Jackson on March 20 and the Tigers will get back on the road to face the Alcorn State Braves in Lorman on March 23-24. From March 26-April 6 the Tigers will host Selma (Mar. 26), UT Pan America (Mar. 30-31), Alabama A&M (April 5-6). On April 9 JSU travels to Hammond, Louisiana to face SE Louisiana before heading to Itta Bena to take on the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils (April. 13-14). JSU will host Wiley College on April 17. From April 19- May 3, the Tigers will welcome Alabama State (April 19-20), Alcorn State (April 26-27) and Southern (May 3) to Braddy Field. On May 4 The Tigers will travel to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to take on the Southern Jaguars. The Tigers will make their final road trip of the regular season on May 8. JSU will face Grambling State in Grambling, Louisiana. JSU will round out the regular season against Florida A&M (May 11-12) at Braddy Field. Photo by Greg Pevey, MSM Rankin Living Magazine MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 53


A

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Alcorn State BRAVES

alcorn

QUICK FACTS >

Schedule

Coach: Barett Rey 2012 Record: 18-37 Overall, 12-10 SWAC, 9-5 Home, 7-29 Away, 2-3 Neutral

Feb. 17..................... Air Force# Feb. 18............................. LSU# Feb. 18..................... Air Force# Feb. 19..................... Air Force# Feb. 21....................... @Auburn Feb. 22....................... @Auburn Feb. 24............................Selma Feb. 25............................Selma Feb. 26............................Selma Feb. 28.............. @LA-Lafeyette Feb. 29.................Nichols State Mar. 2.................@Oral Roberts Mar. 3.................@Oral Roberts Mar. 4.................@Oral Roberts Mar. 7.......... @Southeastern LA Mar. 10...........Miss. Valley (DH) Mar. 11...................Miss. Valley Mar. 13.......................@Georgia Mar. 14.......................@Georgia Mar. 16.............@Jackson State Mar. 17.... @Jackson State (DH) Mar. 20..............@Wichita State Mar. 21..............@Wichita State Mar. 24...... Alabama A&M (DH) Mar. 25...............Alabama A&M Mar. 27.................@Miss. State Mar. 28........ @Southeastern LA Mar. 31........@Alabama St. (DH) Apr. 1...................@Alabama St. Apr. 4............................@Tulane Apr. 5...............@Southern Miss Apr. 6...............@Southern Miss Apr. 7...............@Southern Miss Apr. 10............................. @LSU Apr. 11..........................@Tulane Apr. 14.........@Miss. Valley (DH) Apr. 15.................@Miss. Valley Apr. 17...................@Nichols St. Apr. 18...................... Grambling Apr. 21............ Jsckson St. (DH) Apr. 22.................... Jackson St. Apr. 25....................@Grambling Apr. 28.....@Alabama A&M (DH) Apr. 29.............@Alabama A&M May 5............. Alabama St. (DH) May 6......................Alabama St. May 11.............. @Oklahoma St. May 12.............. @Oklahoma St. May 13.............. @Oklahoma St. May 16-18..........SWAC Tourney # - at LSU (Baton Rouge)

By JE’KEL SMITH Alcorn Sports Information

H

ead Coach Barret Rey enters his third season at the Braves skipper hoping to get back to the SWAC Championship game after missing out in 2012. After a huge win over Air Force to open the 2012 season, the Braves went into a drought losing 17 of their next 19 games. Though the competition was very stiff at the time, the Braves weren’t able to put points on the scoreboard. As the season progressed, the Braves were able to pick up some key wins to build their confidence going into the SWAC Tournament. The Braves defeated the Western division runner-up, Grambling, in the first round but dropped their next two games to Mississippi Valley and Southern and ultimately were eliminated from the tournament finishing with an 1837 record on the season. “I felt that last season was a disappointment for our team because we were expecting to repeat as SWAC Champions,” Rey quoted.  During the tournament we should’ve went deeper than the third round and should’ve at least been in the title game. The mental toughness just wasn’t there for us as a team and our conference is going to be intense. The Braves returnees and newcomers will have to gel quickly with the loss of key players Eduardo Gonzalez, Rodney Warren, and Jann Butler who were big

ANGEL ROSA time hitters last season. Junior, Angel Rosa who played in the Cape Cod League this past summer with the Contuit Kettlers and senior Christian Hickman return as two of the Braves key players. Rosa and Hickman were both selected to the 2012 AllSWAC second team. Rey and his staff also made some changes in

54 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

the bullpen after losing their entire starting rotation. INFIELD The infield is loaded with talent this season with plenty of experience returning. Rosa and Hickman fill up the middle of field at shortstop and second base. Devin Dukes will also step


DON’T MISS AN ISSUE!!

Improved pitching will be the key for the Braves in 2013. in and share time with Hickman at second base. Rosa fielded 22 double plays and assisted on 110 outs during the 2012 season. “We’re going to be strong up the middle because of the veterans we have returning and with Edgardo Salas behind the plate we’re hoping we can catch everyone attempting to steal on us,” said Rey. One thing in baseball is that your team has to be strong up the middle. OUTFIELD Veterans, Alvin Jackson and Josh Powell both possess a ton of speed and can cover a lot of ground. Jackson has seen action since his freshman season and with his defense and ability to get on base he’s only one step from being a complete player. Left field is wide open and Coach Rey may have to fill that position with a newcomer in order for Braves to control the outfield. PITCHING Easter, Williams, and Pomerlee are irreplaceable but Coach Rey feels that two of his returning pitchers will pick up the slack. Joe Camp should provide some valuable (innings) minutes for the Braves this season and Coach Rey believes that RHP Mike Peters gives them a chance to compete week in and week out with his strong arm. “If we throw strikes we’re going to be alright. It sounds easy but we can’t give extra outs by walking batters,” Rey stated. NEWCOMERS Shane Brown and Sean Charleston are two freshman competing for the left field position. DJ Morgan is going to be an outstand-

ing player for the Braves. “Morgan is an utility guy because of his ability to play some at third base and pitch on the mound,” Rey stated. We’re going to open up the season with Ashton Lewis starting at first base. Lewis is a true freshman out of East St. John, LA who had a tremendous fall season. “He’s a big, strong kid who can help us accomplish our goals this year” declares Rey. Shaquelle Cockrell also brings plenty to the table in the outfield because of his strong arm. Brandon Ollet who will be able to give Salas a break behind the plate can help us especially in those three game series on the weekend against SWAC foes. So the future is bright for Alcorn State Baseball. SCHEDULE The Braves face another grueling schedule this season with some 10 of the 18 opponents finishing the 2012 season with a winning record and three of the schools finished in the Top 25 rankings in the country. The schedule features only 16 home games and consists of schools such as LSU, Oklahoma State, Alabama, Tennessee, Wake Forest, South Florida, and Mississippi State. The Braves will also go head to head with ULL, Missouri State, Indiana State, Eastern Illinois, Louisiana-Monroe, New Orleans, and Louisiana Tech. The Braves will get tested early in the March as they open up SWAC play against Alabama State on the “Reservation” in the Braves home opener. The following week the Braves will host the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State University. “If we can turn it on in the month of March then I feel that we will be able to make through the season” Rey expressed. - MSM

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Mississippi Valley State DELTA DEVILS QUICK FACTS >

Schedule

Coach: Doug Shanks 2012 Record: 18-37 Overall, 12-10 SWAC, 9-5 Home, 7-29 Away, 2-3 Neutral

Feb. 16......... Prairie View (DH) Feb. 17......... Prairie View (DH) Feb. 19.................. Delta State Feb. 21............@Dallas Baptist

By KENNETH MISTER

Feb. 22..... @Stephen F. Austin Feb. 22............@Dallas Baptist

MS Valley State Sports Information

Feb.23.............@Dallas Baptist

T

he Mississippi Valley State baseball team hopes to pick up where it left off last season after falling in the SWAC Tournament championship game to Prairie View A&M. The Delta Devils finished the 2012 season with a 17-39 record and earned a fourth place finish in the SWAC Eastern Division. Following a sluggish regular season, the Delta Devils made a splash in the SWAC Tournament after winning three straight games to advance to the title match against Prairie View. Now this season, with a bulk of its roster returning, MVSU is primed and ready to make a run at a SWAC championship. Eleven returning players are highlighted on the Valley roster, including All-SWAC outfielder Joseph Germaine. The Canadian native hit .260 with a team-high 12 doubles and 31 RBIs in 2012. He along with second baseman Edmund Cheatham, a humanhighlight reel on defensive, hope to lead the Delta Devils to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. “We think the quality of our program continues to get better,” said MVSU head coach Doug Shanks.

PITCHING The Delta Devils will be without All-SWAC relief pitcher Cody Parker this season after the

Feb. 26...... @Central Arkansas Feb. 27...... @Central Arkansas Mar. 1............. S. Dakota State Mar. 2............. S. Dakota State Mar. 3............. S. Dakota State Mar. 5................. @Miss. State Mar. 8............. @Jackson State Mar. 9.....@Jackson State (DH) Mar. 12............. @West Florida Mar. 13..... @West Florida (DH) Mar. 16........ Alcorn State (DH) Mar. 17.................Alcorn State Mar. 23.....Alabama A&M (DH) Mar. 24............. Alabama A&M Mar. 26...................@Arkansas Mar. 27...................@Arkansas Mar. 29.......... @Alabama State Mar. 30.. @Alabama State (DH) Apr. 2............. @Blue Mountain Apr. 9......................@Belhaven Apr. 12............ @Jackson State

LUKE BRUMFIELD Starkville native exhausted his eligibility in 2012. Parker will serve as a student assistant this season under head coach Doug Shanks. But what the Delta Devils do have is a healthy dose of pitchers who have experience either at Valley or at the community college level. Returning pitchers include Trey Lacy (Sr., 6-0, 185, Gulfport), David Lostra (Jr., 6-4, 205, Elko, Nev.), Mark Kaplan (R-Jr., 6-5, 230, Brandon) and Kameron Stady (Sr., 6-3, 180, Gulfport). Meanwhile, Shanks brought in five new pitchers, in-

56 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

Apr. 13.......Jackson State (DH)

cluding three community college transfers. “Our No. 1 guy will be either Stay or Lacy,” said Shanks. “Lostra can be a big starter for us as well if he can develop some consistency. He threw a two-hitter in a win at Alabama last year. Overall, we’ll be better depth-wise.” Stady finished the season with a 2-10 record and appeared in 21 games. His 4.98 ERA was second best of the team behind Parker’s 3.54. Lacy, who also plays first base, had a 2-9 record and a 7.18 ERA.

Apr. 16........AR-Pine Bluff (DH) Apr. 17.................@Delta State Apr. 20............@Alcorn St (DH) Apr. 21...............@Alcorn State Apr. 23................ @LA-Monroe Apr. 24................... LA-Monroe Apr. 27... @Alabama A&M (DH) Apr. 28........... @Alabama A&M May 1........ New Orleans* (DH) May. 4.......Alabama State (DH) May 5................ Alabama State May 10.....@AR-Pine Bluff (DH) * - Summit, MS


TREY LACY MVSU’s bullpen beefed up this offseason with the acquisition of its newcomers including Reifers, who had a 4-2 record last season at Mississippi Delta Community College. The Greenville native had 33 strikeouts in 33 innings pitched. His teammate at MDCC, Jonathan Parker, had a 3-2 record last season with 22 strikeouts in 36.2 innings with an ERA of 2.70. OUTFIELD The MVSU outfield will be without graduating senior Michael Lowe, an All-SWAC performer who made an impact during this time in Itta Bena. But the Delta Devils bring back two experienced outfielders: Joseph Germaine (Sr., 5-11, 190, Aldergrove, Canada and Demetrins Bonner (So., 6-0, 185, Coldwater). Germaine is the most experienced of the bunch while Bonner played sparingly last season. Bonner batted .221 in 36 games with 15 hits and six RBIs. The tentative lineup includes Edward Cox (Fr., 6-3, 190, West Point) at centerfield, Germaine at right field and a three-way battle for the left field position between Bonner, German Hays (Jr., 6-2, 185, Mexico City, Mexico) and William Fisher (So., 6-2, 185, Havana, Ill.). Hays, a transfer from Southwest Mississip-

JOSEPH GERMAINE pi Community College, hit .252 last season in junior college with nine doubles and a triple. He also had 18 RBIs. INFIELD The Delta Devil infield is led by second baseman Edmund Cheatham, who led Valley in batting average (.301) and hits (63). Cheatham (Sr., 5-11, 168, Jackson) also had 35 runs, good for second on the team, and a team-best 31 stolen bases. “Cheatman was 16th in the country in stolen bases. I’m looking for big things for him,” said Shanks. “He had a good summer in a wooden bat league in Indiana.” Other returners include Luke Brumfield (Sr., 5-10, 168, Natchez) at shortstop, Seth Milliorn (Sr., 6-3, 180, Olive Branch) at third base, Candler Thomas (So., 5-9, 160, Phoenix) and Corwin Buchanon (RS-Jr., 6-2, 170, Jackson). MVSU added Blake Palasini (Jr., 5-9, 170, Greenville), Ethen Fancher (Fr., 5-10, 195, Selma, Ala.) and Brandon Villarreal (Jr., 5-10, 205, Miami). Palasini is expected to start at catcher after transferring from Mississippi Delta Community College. The Greenville native hit .263 last season with five doubles and 11 RBIs. MVSU pitcher Mark Kaplan and Trey Lacy

will split time at first base. Brumfield played in all 56 games last season at shortstop with a .216 batting average and 16 RBIs. His 43 hits was tied for third-best on the team. Milliorn had 43 hits (four doubles) with a .265 batting average. Thomas, who played behind Nikolas Fangonilo last season at catcher, had a .227 batting average on 17 hits and seven RBIs. SCHEDULE The Mississippi Valley State 2013 schedule features 19 home games, including non-conference matchups against Delta State South Dakota State. To Delta Devils will travel to Dallas Baptist, Central Arkansas, Mississippi State, West Florida, Arkansas, Blue Mountain College, Belhaven University, Louisiana-Monroe and New Orleans. This season will mark the first time in recent history that Valley will open up the season at home. The Delta Devils will host SWAC foe Prairie View A&M on Feb. 16 in the 2013 opener. “That’s the first time that has happened in 13 years that I’ve been here,” said Shanks. “We’re usually on the road. But the Prairie View coach and I agreed on it we when talked during the SWAC Tournament last season.” MSM MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 57


#MSMBASEBALLPREVIEW

Delta State STATESMEN QUICK FACTS >

Schedule

Coach: Mike Kinnison 2012 Record: 49-15 Overall, 17-7 GSC, 17-6 Home, 16-4 Away, 16-5 Neutral

Feb. 8................... Montevallo Feb. 9................... Montevallo Feb. 10................. Montevallo Feb. 13......... @AR-Monticello

By MARK STOWERS

Feb. 15.... Nova Southeastern Feb. 16.... Nova Southeastern

Contributing Writer

Feb. 19.............@Miss. Valley

L

ast June, Delta State made it to the Division II College World Series and came up one win short of taking the title. That team put 49 notches in the win column and only 15 losses. That team featured four players that were drafted and are plying their skills in the minor leagues of major league baseball. Catcher Jon Carnahan is playing and progressing through the Astro’s system while pitchers Aaron Newcomb (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) Brandon Hardin and James Hudelston (Chicago White Sox) are working their way through the minors. That team set the bar high. But a lot of that experience is returning this season. And if anyone can get the Statesmen reloaded, it’s the 2012 Gulf South Conference Coach of the Year, Mike Kinnison. He has collected six of those awards total. Beginning his 17th year at the helm, the top Statesmen in charge has a career record of 703-216-1 (.765) and has averaged 44 wins per season as head coach. His all-time career record, including high school, is an astounding 995-297-1 (.768). In his 16 seasons as head coach, Kinnison has guided the Statesmen to the 2004 NCAA National title, five College World Series appearances (2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 & 2012), 10 NCAA South Regional appearances (1999-2005, 2007,

Feb. 22.........Florida Southern Feb. 23.........Florida Southern Feb. 24.........Florida Southern Feb. 27.......... @Harding Univ. Mar. 2.................West Florida Mar. 3.................West Florida Mar. 5............. @So. Arkansas Mar. 9............. North Alabama Mar. 10........... North Alabama Mar. 12.....@Abilene Christian Mar. 13.....@Abilene Christian Mar. 16... @Christian Brothers Mar. 17... @Christian Brothers Mar. 19................Miss. Valley Mar. 20............. Harding Univ. Mar. 23. @Alabama-Huntsville

Jordan Chovanec 2008 & 2012), 11 GSC Western Division titles (1997-2005, 20072008), five NCAA South/South Central Regional championships and five Gulf South Conference titles. Kinnison lost a total of five players to graduation and two more to season ending injuries, so he’ll be coaching up replacements for those four major leaguers and looking for a new third basemen to replace the graduating Brent Kakwitch. One of Carnahan’s replacements, Charles Fortenberry had a season ending shoulder injury. There are 34 talented players with a mix of experience and unlimited potential that make up this year’s roster.

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Mar. 24. @Alabama Huntsville

PITCHING Kinnison has experience coming back in his starting rotation but he’ll be looking for a new closer for this year’s team. Senior starters Josh Branstetter (RH) with 125.2 innings pitched and Colton Mitchell (LH) with 97.2 innings pitched bring the most experience to the DSU mound. Mitchell even threw a perfect game last season and finished with an 8-2 record. Branstetter was 7-3 on the season. Joining them will be Senior Jordan Moore (RH), 8-1 in 49 innings pitched junior Ricky Winters (RH), 5-0 and 56 innings pitched. And Kinnison will have juniors Michael Manley (RH) from Me-

Mar 29............ West Alabama Mar. 30........... West Alabama Apr. 3..... Arkansas-Monticello Apr. 6............. Shorter College Apr. 7............. Shorter College Apr. 10......Southern Arkansas Apr. 13.............. @Union Univ. Apr. 14.............. @Union Univ. Apr. 16...... @Ouachita Baptist Apr. 17...... @Ouachita Baptist Apr. 20..............West Georgia Apr. 21..............West Georgia Apr. 24.............Henderson St. Apr. 27.............. @Valdosta St. Apr. 28................... @Valdosta May 4-8.... Gulf South Tourney


position will be senior Ben Kingsley who hit .315 in 238 at bats (led the team), had 47 RBIs and three home runs. “He had a great year for us last year in the DH spot. That’s a good bat coming back for us,” he said.

Gulf south conference champs ridian Community College, Travis Northern (RH) from Crowder (Missouri) Community College and Taylor Stark (RH) transfers from Mississippi State who will all see time as starters according to Kinnison. The now major league relief pitchers accounted for nine saves and six wins last season. Hardin’s ERA was 1.03 while Hudelston’s was 3.10. “The pitching aspect – how well we can replace the arms and keep them healthy – but probably the biggest question on the team is the bullpen role. We really need to figure out who that closer guy is going to be for us,” Kinnison said. “We’re kind of auditioning for that right now. But that is a concern.” INFIELD Last season, Jon Carnahan hit .326 had 48 RBIs and four home runs and was behind the plate handling a major league pitching staff. Now he’s gone and three of those pitchers are as well, so Kinnison will be looking to junior Carlos Leal from East Central Community College to handle the load. There will also be a couple of freshman vying for playing time as well. “We’ve got two freshmen backing him up – true freshman Ben Pickard (St. Patrick high school in Biloxi) and redshirt freshman Matt Barrett (John Overton high school in Nashville),” Kinnison said. “They’ll be backing him up to give us that three-man catching group.” The head coach doesn’t call every pitch but relies on his catchers to learn the pitchers and understand what is needed during the games. With only the loss of starting third baseman Kakwitch, the Statesmen will rely on three returning starters – junior first baseman Brent Langston (.272, 36 RBIs and four

home runs) and senior second baseman Tyler Aldridge (.321 and 23 RBIs) will be in the starting lineup but the shortstop position will be split between two players. Senior Josh Crowdus (.257, started 25 games and 14 RBIs) and sophomore Jonathon Andrews (.333, 39 starts and 26 RBIs) will compete for the starting spot. “Due to injuries both of those guys had significant playing time and split the season at shortstop so they are both in the plans,” Kinnison said. The newcomer at third base is scheduled to be JUCO transfer junior Jami Rachal. The left-handed batter transfers from Baton Rouge Community College in Louisiana. Another junior college transfer, junior Kasey Hinton, will be the utility player that Kinnison will rely on to fill in as needed in the infield. “We feel like we’ve got some experience returning and have added a couple of good guys to our infield group to give us some good depth,” he said. OUTFIELD With speed and experience roaming the DSU outfield the three returning starters may be the foundation of the team’s success this season. Seniors Michael Vinson (.342, 53 RBI’s and five home runs) and Sam Kidd (.310, 51 RBIs and 19 stolen bases) join junior Jordan Chovanec (.351, 28 RBIs and 30 stolen bases) to solidify the outfield. “(Left fielder) Vinson is coming off an All American year,” Kinnison said. “Chovanec was an All Conference performer last year in centerfield and let us in hitting. And right fielder Kidd had a good season for us last year.” And holding down the designated hitter

THE SCHEDULE Last year the road through the Gulf South Conference was a bumpy one that looked more like a marathon of bumper cars than a 100-meter dash. The Statesmen fought throughout the season but no one team had total control. Even though DSU won the regular season they didn’t win the GSC tourney but then they had to fight through several conference members again on their way to the College World Series. Kinnison predicts another year of tough conference play with no clear favorite to walk away with anything. “As always its strong,” he said. “I hope people would feel the same way about us. But it’s reached a point where every year West Florida, North Alabama, Valdosta, Huntsville and West Alabama – they’re going to have good clubs and good programs.” They are “new faces in the conference this year with Shorter and Union but you’ve got to understand that they are perennial NAIA playoff teams. We know coming in they’re going to compete.” But who will wear the GSC crown at the end of the season? “It’s a tough conference top to bottom and I don’t think you’ll see anybody just run away with it,” Kinnison said. “It’s going to be the team that can be the most consistent over the course of a long season and overcome some tough weekends and bounce back and play well the next weekend. It’s going to be hard for one team to dominate the league.” Kinnison understands that his team will need to be ready to compete in the tough league. “I feel like we’ll have a nice defensive club and offensively its always about timely hitting but when you get to the meat of the GSC you really run up against some strong pitching,” he said. “You have to find the runs at the right time, pitching and defense needs to show up every day. It’s different now in the age of the BBCOR bat. It’s a bat that’s been toned down a lot – runs come at a premium so to speak – it tends to make you place a lot more emphasis on runs and defense.” Look for Kinnison to stay the course that has continued the excellence first instilled in the program by former Coach Dave “Boo” Ferriss. “I like to take an aggressive approach to everything we do offensively. Try to create pressure and have confident hitters at the plate to keep runners moving. And on the defensive SEE DSU - Continued on Page 70 MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 59


#MSMBASEBALLPREVIEW

Belhaven BLAZERS QUICK FACTS >

Schedule

Coach: Hill Denson 2012 Record: 32-24 Overall, 14-16 SSAC, 23-8 Home, 9-14 Away, 0-2 Neutral

Jan 25........Blue Montain College Jan. 26.....Blue Mountain College Jan. 29..............Tougaloo College Feb. 1.......................Bethel Univ.

By KIRK McDONNELL

Feb. 2.......................Bethel Univ. Feb. 5...............Tougaloo College

Belhaven Sports Information

Feb. 8................ Missouri Baptist Feb. 9........Missouri Baptist (DH) Feb. 12..............Millsaps College

T

he Belhaven baseball team is excited about putting the 2012 season in the past and moving forward into the 2013 campaign. It was a challenging year for the Blazers, who finished the season with a record of 32-24 and missed the NAIA National Championship Opening round for the first time since the format was put into place in 2009. Belhaven is also accustomed to being in the chase for conference titles year in and year out, but 2012 proved to be difficult in that regard as well. The Blazers finished 8th in the Southern States Athletic Conference standings with a record of 14-16 and just did make the field of eight teams in the SSAC tournament. Belhaven’s struggles in the regular season carried over to the conference tournament where the team was eliminated in two games. “Last year was disappointing for us,” said Head Coach Hill Denson. “It was the first time in eight seasons that we haven’t been to an NAIA Regional or Opening Round Tournament. We had a lot of talented players on the roster last season and thought it was one of our better ballclub’s, but we just didn’t seem to gel as the season went along. We are excited about the players we have coming back and the news faces we brought in as we look to make a fresh start in 2013.”

Feb. 15...............@Faulkner Univ. Feb. 16...... @Faulkner Univ. (DH) Feb. 19............... @Miss. College Feb. 22................LSU-Alexandria Feb. 23....... LSU-Alexandria (DH) Feb. 26............. Freed-Hardaman Mar. 1........................... Lee Univ. Mar. 2........................... Lee Univ. Mar. 5........ Tennessee Wesleyan Mar. 6........ Tennessee Wesleyan Mar. 8.......@Loyola New Orleans Mar. 9. Loyola New Orleans (DH) Mar. 12..................@Bethel Univ. Mar. 13...........@Freed-Hardaman Mar. 15.......Auburn-Montgomery Mar. 16.Auburn-Montgomery (DH) Mar. 19...........@Millsaps College Mar. 22.........Southern Wesleyan

JASON HICKS

Mar. 23.Southern Wesleyan (DH) Mar. 26.................. Miss. College Mar. 29.....@Brewton Parker Col.

INFIELD Belhaven returns three key players on the infield with Bud Britt, Jason Hicks, and Kyle Wheeler all returning for their senior seasons. Wheeler, a catcher from Loranger, LA, was second on the team in batting average at .294 and third in home runs with four in his first year as a Blazer in 2012. Wheeler split time with Clay Bonds behind the dish last year, but is penciled in as the fulltime starter for 2013. Hicks, a native of Brandon, MS, paced the Blazers in stolen

60 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

bases last year going 16 for 16 and can play either second base or shortstop. Hicks was third on the team in total hits that included three home runs and 17 runs batted in. His batting average topped out at .285 at the end of the season. Britt, who will once again patrol third base in 2013, ended 2012 second on the team in total hits with 55 and had a batting average of .282. Britt, a junior from Brookhaven, MS, had 12 doubles, a pair of home runs, and 35 runs batted in.

Mar. 30.@Brewton Parker Col. (DH) Apr. 3................Tougaloo College Apr. 5...................Univ. of Mobile Apr. 6...........Univ. of Mobile (DH) Apr. 9..................MS Valley State Apr. 12......................@Spring Hill Apr. 13..............@Spring Hill (DH) Apr. 16...............Millsaps College Apr. 19........@Emmanuel College Apr. 20.@Emmanuel College (DH) Apr. 23................ @Miss. College Apr. 25................... William Carey Apr. 26...........William Carey (DH) Apr. 30-May 4 SCAC Tourney


KYLE WHEELER Ryne Cook and Emilio DeSilva both return to the club this season and look to see increased playing time on the infield. Cook, a senior from Willard, MO, hit .247 with 21 hits, nine runs batted in and 16 runs scored a year agoi. Two of Cook’s hits were doubles. DeSilva, a sophomore from Plantation, FL, saw in action in 40 contests last year but mainly as a defensive replacement at first base late in games. DeSilva had three hits and five RBI’s in limited plate appearances. Two new faces on the infield will be a pair of Hinds Community College transfers in Tyler Akins and Daniel Gilbert. Akins, who hails from Madison, MS, can play a number of different positions and will be a solid addition to the team. Akins earned Team MVP honors as a freshman at Hinds in 2011 where he hit .333 and led the team in doubles (8), home runs (5), runs batted in (27), and runs scored. Akins also swiped eight bases during the 2011 campaign. Akins was named to the All-State second team and in addition to his offense, was 6-4 on the mound with a 3.57 ERA in 49 innings pitched. Akins will also be on the Blazer pitching staff in 2013. Gilbert, a junior and native of Ridgeland, MS, played shortstop and second base during his freshman season in 2011. Gilbert recorded a .380 batting average, collected two doubles, 13 RBI, and had four stolen bases. “We are very excited to have these guys join us this year,” said Assistant Head Coach and Recruiting Coordinator Clay Smith. “Akins and Gilbert are very good players and exceptional guys. They will bring a good deal of leadership to our team along with their talent.” OUTFIELD The Blazers will have some big shoes to fill

in the outfield with the graduations of left fielder Anthony Doss and centerfielder Tyler Wrinkle. Doss a native of Brandon, MS, was an SSAC All-Conference selection and led the Blazers offense with a team best .392 batting average, with eight home runs and 49 runs batted in. Wrinkle, a native of Lebanon, MO, battled through injuries and tallied 50 hits and 14 runs batted in. Returners who are battling for one of the outfield spots are Joshua Bouldin and Hamilton Harper. Bouldin, a senior from Madison, MS, hit at a .235 clip last season with 20 hits and 13 runs batted in. Bouldin launched a pair of home runs and belted six doubles while scoring 12 runs in 38 games played. Harper, a sophomore from Clermont, GA, played in 27 contests and made 40 plate appearances in 2012. Harper hit .225 with two doubles, a triple, and eight RBI’s. New outfielders for the green and gold this season include Maher Entabi, Caleb Baucum, and Dominick Francia. Entabi, a junior from Kissimmee, FL, transfers to Belhaven after spending last season at Lawson State Community College. Entabi put up some impressive numbers in 2012, hitting .349 with two doubles and two home runs. He was also 14 for 16 in stolen base attempts. Baucum, a Byram, MS native who prepped at Hillcrest Christian School in Jackson, tied for the team lead in home runs (5), produced 10 doubles, one triple and 34 RBI in 2012 as a sophomore at Hinds Community College. He was also second on the team with 47 runs scored with a .357 batting average. Baucum is excellent at putting the ball in play as evidenced by only nine strikeouts in 212 plate appearances. Baucum was named to the 2012 MACJC All State Second Team and helped

lead the HCC Eagles to the 2012 MACJC State Championship. “Caleb will be great addition to our club,” says Coach Denson. “He can really hit for average and power. He was a really good high school player at Hillcrest and continued to put up good numbers with Hinds the last two years. He should fit right in and we are happy that he has decided to further his career with us.” Francia, a junior transfer from NCAA Division I University of Louisiana-Lafayette, prepped at St. Paul’s Episcopal High School in Mobile, Ala. where he lettered in baseball and football. During his senior season, the center fielder hit .460 and collected 37 stolen bases and as a junior at St. Paul’s hit at a .365 clip with 10 doubles, four triples and 39 stolen bases in 40 attempts. Career highlights include helping St. Paul’s advance to class 5A state semifinals; tossing a perfect game and being ranked the ninth-best player in the State of Alabama. Francia was selected to participate in the East Coast Pro Showcase in Lakeland, Fla. and in summer ball, hit .468 with 15 doubles, six triples and 44 stolen bases (45 attempts). In addition, Francia was drafted in the 46th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft by San Diego. “Dominick adds an element of team speed that we have been lacking the last couple of years,” says Denson. “He is a true base stealing threat and has the ability to be a good leadoff hitter. He has tremendous speed and a great knowledge of the game. We are happy that he is joining us.” PITCHING The pitching staff will have a totally new look in 2013 with only one returner from last year’s roster in Robert Marzoni. Marzoni a senior right hander from Purvis, MS, appeared in 17 games out of the bullpen a year ago and posted a 1.21 ERA, second on the team behind only Jon Patino who ended the year with a 0.89 ERA. Marzoni tossed 22.1 innings and allowed only three earned runs on 16 hits. He struck out 23 opposing hitters and walked just three. Akins, who was mentioned earlier, will factor in as a pitcher along with newcomers Zach Rowell, Tyler Copeland, and Josh Rogers. Rowell, a native of McComb, MS and transfer from Southwest Mississippi Community College, was a mainstay in the Bears rotation over the last two seasons. In 2012 as a sophomore, Rowell posted a 6-3 record with a 3.41 ERA while striking out 32 batters in 52 innings of work. “Zach is a big, strong guy, with a good fastball and slider,” said Smith. “He has always had a great arm from the time I saw him in high school and Southwest coaches’ Lee Kuyrkendall and Pitching Coach Ken Jackson SEE BELHAVEN - Continued on Page 71 MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 61


#MSMBASEBALLPREVIEW

Miss. College CHOCTAWS QUICK FACTS >

Schedule

Coach: Brian Owens 2012 Record: 21-24 Overall, 9-9 Conf., 10-11 Home, 10-10 Away, 1-3 Neutral

Feb. 8......Birmingham Southern

By DAVID NICHOLS

Feb. 16...................... Berry (DH)

Feb. 9......Birmingham Southern Feb. 15.............................. Berry

Feb. 19........................ Belhaven

Miss. College Sports Information

Feb. 22.............@Howard Payne

T

he 2012 Mississippi College baseball season saw many ups and downs, but the Choctaws achieved one of their many goals by advancing to the American Southwest Conference Championship Tournament. A six-game losing streak to open the month of April appeared to put a damper on those expectations, but MC responded by winning four of their final five games in the regular season to earn the #3 seed in the East Division. That sent the Choctaws to Seguin, Texas to face Texas Lutheran in a three-game series that decided which team advanced to the four-team, double-elimination tournament. After splitting the first two games, the Bulldogs grabbed a 2-1 lead and appeared headed toward the tournament berth. Pate Shackelford stepped to the plate in the sixth inning and hit his only home run of the season, a three-run shot that game MC at 4-2 lead. The Choctaws held on for the win and moved on to the ASC Tournament. While MC did not win the ASC Championship, they still left much to build on as they head into the 2013 season. Head coach Brian Owens and his staff feel that the recruiting class coming in should mesh well with a group of returners and push to get back atop the American Southwest Conference.

Feb. 23.... @Howard Payne (DH) Feb. 26..........................Millsaps Mar. 1........ Texas Lutheran (DH) Mar. 2.................Texas Lutheran Mar. 5............................Millsaps Mar. 8.................... @Texas-Tyler Mar. 9............ @Texas-Tyler (DH) Mar. 11............ Illinois Wesleyan Mar. 15.....................Letourneau Mar. 16............ Letourneau (DH) Mar. 19...........................Rhodes Mar. 22........ @Louisiana College Mar. 23..... @Louisiana College (DH) Mar. 26..................... @Belhaven

ryan glover

Mar. 29.................... Huntingdon Mar. 30............ Huntingdon (DH)

INFIELD The Choctaws will return half of their infield from a season ago, but will have to fill the holes left by three players that had a huge impact on the program. Second baseman Mike Kerdock was a First Team All-ASC East Division selection after leading the team and finishing 4th in the ASC with a .406 batting average and 65 hits. Third baseman Spencer Brunson had an outstanding junior season and finished 4th in the league with 44 runs scored as a senior. Daniel Wass stepped in at third base late in the season and gave the Choc-

62 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

taws some stability on the corner as the season went along. MC does return senior first baseman Brett Hightower (6’0, 190), who led the American Southwest Conference with 47 runs batted in. He led the Choctaws with five home runs and finished second on the team with a .349 batting average. The Hurst, Texas native only made four errors in 376 chances at first base. Also coming back is senior Josh Perez (5’10, 170), who was the team’s shortstop last season, but will make the move to second base in 2013. Perez hit 3.19 with

Apr. 2............................Tougaloo Apr. 5...................... Texas-Dallas Apr. 6.............. Texas-Dallas (DH) Apr. 9..........................@Millsaps Apr. 12............@E. Texas Baptist Apr. 13............@E. Texas Baptist Apr. 19..................... Ozarks (AR) Apr. 20.............Ozarks (AR) (DH) Apr. 23......................... Belhaven Apr 26.......... ASC Champ Series May 3-5.....ASC Champ. Tourney


coming back as the team’s right fielder. Besides hitting the home run in the series against Texas Lutheran, he also hit .304 with a teamhigh 12 doubles. He has great instincts and speed at the corner outfield position to go with a plus arm. Shackelford also was second on the team with 11 stolen bases. Kyle Blount is a transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College that has taken hold of the center field position. This will be the fourth year in-a-row with MC having to play a new center fielder, but each has had an outstanding year. Chase Herrin led MC to a berth in the Division III Regionals and won a National Gold Glove in 2010. Andy Smith hit .287 with 10 doubles and 24 RBI in 2011, while Brooks had a breakout year in 2012. Blount appears to be the next in line for the heralded position. Newcomer Chris Casto looks like the front-runner for the left field spot. He is an all-around athlete that will see time on the mound and as the team’s designated hitter. His power and instincts will make it hard to keep him out of the lineup. Two other incoming outfielders pushing for time are Spencer Wilson and Seth Hinson. Both players have played good defense in the fall and have shown the ability to swing the bat, as well.

BRETT HIGHTOWER a team-high three triples and 23 stolen bases. His 23 swipes ranked second in the ASC and is 4th in MC history for a single season. Another returner that will push for playing time along the infield will be senior Murphy Buggs (5’10, 160). He played sparingly last season, only nine appearances, but the coaches are very pleased with his progression in the offseason and feel comfortable putting him in the infield. The Choctaws appear to have found a clear-cut option at third base as Aaron Lee comes to the program from Pearl River Community College. He is a pure leadoff hitter that has exhibited speed and intelligence and has been a solid addition to the team through “Fall Ball” and preseason practice. At shortstop, the coaching staff has some choices to make between Robbie Jernigan and Tate Ratcliff. Both players are solid defensively, and any offense will be a bonus. The Choctaws will still be comfortable as they bring back Perez and Buggs, who both saw action at shortstop last season. The Choctaws will also have to find a new everyday catcher after the departure of Chad Wooten, who started 37 of 45 games behind the plate for MC. Wooten hit .244 with three doubles and 11 RBI, but only made three errors and three out 13 of 47 base-runners a season ago. Junior Zach Evans (5’10, 200) looks started the other eight games at catcher for MC last

season and hit .276 with a home run and eight RBI. Evans made just one error on the season, and his offseason work has paid off as they coaches are impressed with his progress. Seniors Beau Underwood (6’1, 200) and Brandon Vickery (6’3, 210) will also push for playing time. Underwood was primarily a pitcher last season and could see some time in the outfield as his athletic ability makes it hard to keep him off the field. He spent the all as a backup quarterback for the MC football team. Vickery has unbelievable size and potential and is very close to putting it all together. Rob Thames (6’1, 210) and Chris Casto appear to be the top options as the designated hitter for MC. Thames hit .246 with two doubles and a home run last season, while Casto has a powerful bat and will see action in the outfield and on the mound, as well. OUTFIELD The Choctaws will have two big holes to fill in the outfield as they will need to replace center fielder J’Marcus Brooks and left fielder Jeremy Simmons. Brooks was the team’s leadoff hitter last season and finished third on the team with a .336 batting average. He also only made two errors in 102 chances and was a First Team All-East Division selection. Simmons hit .328 with nine doubles and 22 RBI. Senior Pate Shackelford (6’3, 190) is the lone returner in the outfield from last season,

PITCHING While the Choctaws do return eight pitchers that saw action last season, they will have to replace two weekend starters in Ian Underwood and Scott Trousdale. Underwood was a three-year starter and went 4-5 with a 4.31 ERA in 11 starts last season. Trousdale came on strong at the end of the season and went 4-4 with a 3.18 ERA in a team-high 82.0 innings. Senior Ryan Glover (6’3, 205) comes back to the rotation after posting a team-high seven wins in 13 appearances. In 11 starts, the lefty struck out 40 batters in 73.1 innings pitched. Through his first six starts of the year, he was 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA. The other left-handed pitchers returning are senior Matt Frye (6’3, 188) and sophomores Brooks Fortenberry (6’5, 210) and Ethan Richardson (6’2, 210). Frye appeared in nine games last season and struck out 10 batters over 16.2 innings pitched. As a rookie, Fortenberry made five appearances and allowed just five hits. Richardson is a sizable left that could eat up some innings for MC this year. Leading the returning right-handers is senior Austin Trehern (5’10, 190), who had a great second half of the season on the bump. Trehern finished second on the team with a 3.68 ERA in 22.0 innings pitched. He allowed just one extra-base hit in 10 appearances. Coming back from a season-ending injury SEE M.C. - Continued on Page 70 MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 63


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Millsaps MAJORS QUICK FACTS >

Schedule

Coach: Jim Page 2012 Record: 28-16 Overall, 9-5 SCAC

Feb. 9......College of the Ozarks# Feb. 10................... Huntingdon# Feb. 12...................... @Belhaven Feb. 15......................@Piedmont

By DAN GRIFFIN Millsaps Sports Information

Feb. 16. Birmingham Southern%

he 2013 Millsaps Majors baseball team returns a solid core from a 2012 ball club that went 28 and 16 and finished second in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference. This season marks a new era for Major athletics as the 2012-13 season is the first for the school in the newly formed Southern Athletic Association. Defending SCAC champion Birmingham-Southern, Centre, Hendrix, Oglethorpe, Rhodes and Sewanee also make the move from the SCAC and Berry dropped its independent state to join the conference. Head Coach Jim Page begins his 25th season at the helm of the Majors and fields a team that is loaded with depth and balance. Catchers: Wes Perkins returns behind home plate and is penciled in as the everyday catcher. The All-Conference catcher hit .379 last year with a team-high seven home runs and 51 driven in. The senior looks to anchor the lineup as well as the pitching staff. Joining him behind home plate will be junior college transfer Blake Littlejohn who hit .270 for Northeast Mississippi Community College last season.

Feb. 17....................Lynchburg%

T

INFIELD The Majors’ infield is loaded with depth and talent this year, as it returns all four starters from 2012. Keith Shumaker returns to the hot corner as the everyday third baseman. In his freshman year, Shumaker hit .307

Feb. 22........................... Capital* Feb. 23............. Frankin College* Feb. 24...................@Huntingdon Feb. 26............... @Miss. College Mar. 5.................... Miss. College Mar. 8..............................Hendrix Mar. 9..............................Hendrix Mar. 10............................Hendrix Mar. 12............. Illinois Wesleyan Mar. 15.............................@Berry Mar. 16.............................@Berry Mar. 17.............................@Berry Mar. 19......................... Belhaven Mar. 23..................... Centre (DH) Mar. 24............................. Centre Mar. 26....... Wisconsin-Platteville Mar. 27....... Wisconsin-Platteville Mar. 29...................... Oglethorpe Mar. 30...................... Oglethorpe

COACH JIM PAGE and made 51 putouts and started seven double plays in 43 games. Samuel Doucet returns for his sophomore year as the shortstop. In his freshman year, Doucet hit .311 with a .403 on-base percentage, while playing in all 44 games at short. Second baseman Kevin Wall returns after a broken hand delayed his junior season start. He hit .274 in 22 games while logging a 984 fielding percentage. Tyler Lane transfers in from Baton Rouge Community College and junior Andrew Rafferty are candidates to see time at first base.

64 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

Mar. 31...................... Oglethorpe

Adding to the depth are super utility men Stephen Gates and Will Elmore. Each can play any position in the infield. Gates was All-Conference last year and is coming off of a season that saw him hit .400 with 43 runs batted in. Elmore made his presence felt on the mound but did hit .217 in 23 plate appearances last season. Sophomore Annon Etheridge is someone to watch out for to add pop off of the bench and to spell some starters in the middle infield. The talent and depth available in the infield allows for great flexibility for Coach Page.

Arp. 2......................@Huntingdon Apr. 6... @Univ. of the South (DH) Apr. 7........... @Univ. of the South Apr. 12...... Birmingham Southern Apr. 13...... Birmingham Southern Apr. 14...... Birmingham Southern Apr. 16....................... @Belhaven Apr. 19..........................@Rhodes Apr. 20..........................@Rhodes Apr. 21..........................@Rhodes Apr. 26-May 5......... SAA Tourney # Millsaps Invitational, % - at Piedmont, *Montgomery, AL


KEVIN WALLS OUTFIELD The outfield lost its top four players including Jules Roussel and Ryan Zemke who each hit better than .320 last season. Jerrod Myers will take over in left field for Zemke. Myers hit .342 in 31 games last year while posting a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in left field. Freshman Isaac Glenn will step into the starting role in center field. Glenn hit .345 for Madison Central High School last year and was ranked fourth in the state by Max Preps at the position. Will Lawrence and William Chenoweth will battle it out for a starting spot in right field after being in platoon roles last season. Senior Adam Bice moves from the infield to the outfield and will add depth after making the transition very smoothly. PITCHING The Majors bring an arsenal on the mound with them to the Southern Athletic Association. Back are their top two starters in Will Edwards and Will Elmore. Edwards returns for his senior campaign after going 8-4 last season with one save while posting a 3.20 earned run average. Elmore posted a 3.32 earned run average in 43 innings pitched in 2012. Keith Shumaker and Samuel Doucet

ELIOT VARNEY are both solid two-way players that add talent and depth to the staff. As does Zander Romano who won five games in 19 appearances last year. Elliot Varney is coming back from injury, but struck out 35 batters in 47 innings in 2011. Sophomores Colin Peak and Wes Hammond will also figure into the rotation. Hammond went 3-2 for the Majors last year in 14 games including six starts. The freshman class also brings loads of talent with them. Daniel Ross comes out of South Forsyth High School in Alpharetta, Georgia, he went 7-2 with a 2.01 era in his senior season. Harper Grier (Spartanburg, SC), John Streitman (Houston, TX) are also freshman to watch out for. Grier throws out of a near submarine delivery and will be a unique weapon for Millsaps. Freshman JC Keane comes out of Lubbock Texas and sported a 6-1 record and a 2.90 earned run average for Lubbock-Cooper High School last year. Nathan Harrell is a junior college transfer from Hinds Community College and is a valuable left hander for the Majors. The Majors love the depth their pitching staff has this season and can place pitchers into specific roles as the season goes forward. The coaching staff plans to use the final two weeks in January to help determine

those initial roles. OVERVIEW The Majors cut down on errors last year from 81 to 73 while logging a .956 fielding percentage. That mark was good enough for fifth in the SCAC but would have had them third in the SAA. The Majors stats were about as even as they could get at the friendly confines of Twenty Field and on the road. The Majors hit .318 both at home and on the road but ended the season just 8-8 at home, 13-5 on the road and 7-3 at neutral sites. However, one needs to look no further than the offensive stats from last season’s squad. In Millsaps’ 28 victories, they scored 269 runs, almost 10 per victory. In their 16 losses, the Majors scored 77 runs, about. 4.5 runs per loss. The Majors bring back a solid nucleus for the 2013 season. With the infusion of talent from the incoming freshman class and junior college transfers, things look very promising for Millsaps. The maturity and development of that talent is one of the major keys to this season. The road to the Southern Athletic Association title very well may come through Jackson. - MSM MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 65


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Wiliam Carey CRUSADERS QUICK FACTS >

Schedule

Coach: Bobby Halford 2012 Record: 18-37 Overall, 12-10 SWAC, 9-5 Home, 7-29 Away, 2-3 Neutral

Feb. 1.................LSU-Shreveport Feb. 2........ LSU-Shreveport (DH) Feb. 5.......@LSU-Alexandria (DH) Feb. 8..................Lindsey Wilson

By DJ PULLEY

Feb. 9......... Lindsey Wilson (DH)

William Carey Sports Information

E

ntering his 28th season at the helm of the Crusaders, head coach Bobby Halford comes off of an injury plagued 2012 season which saw the William Carey Crusaders finish the season with a 29-27 record which included a 15-14 record in SSAC play. Despite losing eight players during the final three weeks of the regular season the Crusaders advanced to the SSAC Conference Tournament in Columbus, GA for the second straight year. “We went through a lot last year with injuries. I really can’t remember a season quite like it. I was proud of the way our guys competed no matter the situations they were put in,” said Halford. Perhaps the most devastating injuries happened to the pitching staff were WCU saw thirteen pitchers miss significant time due to arm injuries last season. Along with assistants Ben Smith and Matt Carter the Crusaders have emphasized building depth in the 2013 pitching staff. A large group of junior college transfers highlight the new additions to the 2013 pitching staff including Casey Wells (East Central CC), Landon Brister (ltawamba CC), Hunter Phillips (Florida State College at Jacksonville), Cade Leblanc (Baton Rouge CC), as well as two Delgado CC standouts Josh Wood and Cody Deckwa. The diversity of arms recruited from junior col-

Feb. 15......@Southern Wesleyan Feb. 16......@Southern Wesleyan Feb. 19....... LSU-Alexandria (DH) Feb. 22.....@Loyola New Orleans Feb. 23.....@Loyola New Orleans (DH) Feb. 27.................West Alabama Mar. 1.......................@Spring Hill Mar. 2...............@Spring Hill (DH) Mar. 6....................Tougaloo (DH) Mar. 8................... Lee University Mar. 9...........Lee University (DH) Mar. 15...............@Faulkner Univ. Mar. 16...... @Faulkner Univ. (DH) Mar. 18.................Arkansas Tech Mar. 22............... Brewton-Parker Mar. 23.......Brewton-Parker (DH) Mar. 27..................Tougaloo (DH) Mar. 29.............@So. Polytechnic

COACH BOBBY HALFORD leges should give the Crusaders a good mix of experienced starters and relievers. Additional newcomers Jake Fabre (SR. Houma, LA), Cullen Babin (SR. Houma, LA), and Vito Perno (JR. Laurel, MS), will also be looked upon fill the holes left by graduating seniors Taylor Martin, Zac Magee, Kye Wilson, and Sean Carter. Expected to anchor what could be one of the SSAC’s deepest pitching staffs Fabre and Babin bring in prior experience with four-year schools. Fabre sported a 5-7 record with a 4.50 ERA for the Uni-

66 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

Mar. 30.... @So. Polytechnic (DH)

versity of New Orleans in 2012, which included 40 strikeouts in 60 innings of work. Babin, who spent last season at Delta State, is looking to return to the form that made him an AII-MACJC performer at Hinds CC. PITCHING Returning to the hill for the Crusaders is Brandon Jones (SR. Leroy, AL), J.D. Little (SO. Destin, FL) and Michael Coelho (SO. Niceville, FL). Jones provided stability to the WCU bullpen last season and was also effective in several starts. Jones finished

Apr.3..................@West Alabama Apr. 5...........Emmaunuel College Apr. 6.....Emmanuel College (DH) Apr. 9.......@LSU-Shreveport (DH) Apr. 12............... Florida Christian Apr. 13....... Florida Christian (DH) Apr. 17....................Union Univ. # Apr. 19.................Univ. of Mobile Apr. 20.........Univ. of Mobile (DH) Apr. 25....................... @Belhaven Apr. 26............... @Belhaven (DH) # - Jackson, MS


BRANDON JONES with a 3-2 record, 4.50 ERA, and recorded 31 strikeouts in 49 1/3 innings. Little and Coelho both saw extensive action as freshmen and received valuable experience that will benefit the team in 2013. Little started 11 games for WCU and finished third on the team in strikeouts while Coelho made 14 appearances including 5 starts. “After the injuries we went through last season we feel very confident that we have enough arms to overcome the unforeseen. The group as a whole has the ability to develop velocity wise more than we have been able to in the past and each one brings a wealth of experience” said Halford. INFIELD In the infield the Crusaders return starting third basemen Mitch Bohon (SR. West Point, MS), second basemen Sean Hodges (JR. Vancleave, MS), and first basemen Jackson Posey (JR. Sumrall, MS). In 2012 Bohon started all 56 games and hit .300 with 4 home runs, 13 doubles, and a team high 51 RBI’s. “Mitch had a good season last year and has vastly improved over the offseason. He is in the best shape of his career and had an exceptional fall capped off by a strong showing in the SSAC Showcase in October,” said Halford. Another option at third base is Itawamba CC product Chris Hannig. Hannig has a good bat with a solid glove and could also see time in the out-

field. At shortstop J.C. Cassidy (Mississippi Gulf Coast CC) will step in and fill the void left by the graduation of two-year starter Ronnie Camacho. The Ocean Springs native hit .305 and drove in 37 runs in two years at MGCCC. Hodges is back at second base and will be joined by East Mississippi transfer Tyler Bonaventure. Last season, Hodges successfully returned from a one-year layoff and hit .295 with 22 RBI’s and sported a .960 fielding percentage. Bonaventure hit .289 with 20 RBI’s and 21 runs scored a year ago. Returner Alex Lahasky (SR. Overland Park, KS) will also see time at second base this season. In addition to spending time on the mound left-handed power threat Cade Leblanc will join Jackson Posey at first base. Posey hit a team high .328 with 10 doubles and 34 RBI’s last season and fielded a team best .990 with 379 assist and 28 double plays. “Both guys are really good at first. Posey was solid last year for us, and Leblanc was tremendous in the fall. One of the positives is that Posey is righthanded and Leblanc is left-handed so we have options and there is no drop off defensively when either one is on the field,” said Halford. Behind the plate the Crusaders will turn to redshirt freshmen Harrison Foster (Birmingham, AL) and Nick Lowe (FR. Satsuma, AL) to fill in the gap left by the graduation of Quinn Stokes.

OUTFIELD The Crusaders will sport a revamped outfield in 2013 after graduating all starting outfielders from a year ago. Senior Carlos Castro (Carolina, Puerto Rico) returns after missing last season due to injury. During his junior year in 2011 Castro hit .315 with 3 home runs, 14 doubles, and 34 RBI’s. Joining the Crusaders are junior college transfers Scott Fabre (Delgado CC), Jeremy Ferguson (Itawamba CC), Aaron Brady (East Mississippi CC), and Tre Keys (Mississippi Delta CC). True freshmen Richard Hensarling (Lafayette, LA) will also join the Carey outfield. “We had one of the best defensive outfields in the SSAC last year. Will White, Javier Ortiz, Ernie Triplett, and Daniel Covert really understood how to play defense and it will be hard to replace those guys. This year’s group will be expected to execute at the plate and play to their strengths. Fabre plays hard, has a big arm and brings a tremendous bat to the lineup. Ferguson and Keys are lefties with good power and strong arms. Hensarling and Brady are speed guys. We also have Bonaventure, Hannig, and Coelho that can play the outfield as well,” said Halford. Fabre sat out last season but hit .365 with 29 RBI’s during the 2011 season. Brady hit .308 a year ago while Keys sported a .330 average and was named All-MACJC in 2012. In 2013 the Crusaders will welcome two nationally ranked teams to Milton Wheeler Field on back to back weekends to kick off the season in addition to tangling with SSAC foes Southern Wesleyan (SC), Loyola (LA), Spring Hill (AL), Lee (TN), Faulkner (AL), Brewton Parker (GA), Southern Poly (GA), Emmanuel (GA), Mobile (AL), and Belhaven (MS). The Crusaders also take on Tougaloo College (MS), Union University (TN), Florida Christian College, University of West Alabama, and LSU-Alexandria (LA). The Crusaders open the season on February 1st against second ranked LSU-Shreveport (LA). First pitch is set for 6:00pm at Milton Wheeler Field. - MSM

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MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 67


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Blue Mountain College TOPPERS QUICK FACTS >

Schedule

Coach: Curt Fowler 2012 Record: 26-35 Overall, 8-17 TransSouth Conference

Jan. 25....................... @Belhaven Jan. 26....................... @Belhaven Feb. 1............................Tougaloo

By RYAN HANCOCK

Feb. 2....................Tougaloo (DH)

Contributing Writer

Feb 5....Auburn-Montgomery (DH)

O

nly in its second season as a program, the Blue Mountain College Toppers reached the TransSouth Conference championship game, falling to the Union Bulldogs 2-1 to finish the 2012 season at 26-35 and 8-17 in the TransSouth Conference. While the 2012 season saw the Toppers come up one game short of reaching a regional, the 2013 edition of the Blue Mountain Toppers are looking to bid farewell to the TransSouth Conference on a positive note in head coach Curt Fowler’s third season.

Feb 8......... Williams Baptist (DH)

INFIELD The two linchpins in the infield for the Toppers are seniors Dalton Kulas and Ben Wallis. In 2012, Ben Wallis batted .311 in 54 games for the Toppers while hitting a pair of home runs and driving in 38 runs. For Kulas, who also sees time at pitcher for Blue Mountain, batted .296 with four home runs and 29 RBIs, both marks among the best on the team. In addition to Wallis and Kulas, junior first baseman Josh Swords is expected to have a bigger role in the infield after only playing 17 games and batting .219 in 2012 as well as newcomer Corey Smith, who enjoyed a successful career at Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville. Coach Fowler also signed Caleb Walker, younger brother of

Mar. 15.......... @Freed Hardeman

Feb. 9...... St. Catherines College Feb. 12...... @Faulkner Univ. (DH) Feb. 15........... @Williams Baptist Feb. 16... @Williams Baptist (DH) Feb. 19... @Lemoyne Owen (DH) Feb. 22.......................@Tougaloo Feb. 23...............@Tougaloo (DH) Feb. 26 ......@Auburn-Montgomery (DH) Mar. 1..................LSU-Alexandria Mar. 2......... LSU-Alexandria (DH) Mar. 5........ Leymone Owen (DH) Mar. 12.......... Faulkner Univ (DH)

Mar. 16.. @Freed Hardeman (DH) Mar. 19..............Union University

RICHEY GARDNER former Topper Channing Walker out of Tupelo High. In his senior year at Tupelo High for the Wave Walker batted .262 and scored 21 runs. His addition to the roster for the Toppers continues the North Mississippi pipeline for Fowler’s staff to Blue Mountain. OUTFIELD One of the best hitters in the TransSouth Conference, Gardner Richey returns to Blue Mountain to follow up his monster 2012 season in which he hit .365 with 12 home runs, both tops on the team. Along with Richey the Toppers also welcome back senior

68 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

Mar. 22.............@LSU-Alexandria

Zac Scott, who batted .293 and drove in 22 runs for the Toppers. In addition to Scott and Richey, the Toppers also welcome newcomers Santez Glass of Tupelo as well as speedy outfielder Jordan Montgomery, who signed with the Toppers after finishing up a stellar career at Desoto Central High School in Southaven. PITCHING “Going into this season,” Fowler said, “I knew our offense was good however our pitching has to improve from what it was in 2012 .” In the offseason, Fowler inked

Mar. 23.....@LSU-Alexandria (DH) Mar. 26......... @Victory Univ. (DH) Mar. 29...........................@Bethel Mar. 30...................@Bethel (DH) Apr. 2.......@MS Valley State (DH) Apr. 12.............. Freed Hardeman Apr. 13...... Freed Hardeman (DH) Apr. 16....................@Union Univ. Apr. 19............. Martin Methodist Apr. 20..... Martin Methodist (DH) Apr.25-30.... Mid-Continent Tourney # - Jackson, MS


GIBBS - Continued from Page 42

BEN WALLICE a trio of arms in Chance Paytnor, McKamy Smith, and Seth Davis to shore up a depleted staff that only returns notables such as Brandon Berry and Will Basil. Basil in 2012 for the Toppers posted an ERA of 6.45 with a 2-1 record and 26 strikeouts while Berry had a team-best ERA of 4.50. Along with Berry and Basil, the Toppers also return sophomore Alex Artnald, who posted a record of 1-2 in and an ERA of 7.36 in 2012. OVERVIEW On December 5th, Blue Mountain officials broke ground on a $1.8 million on-campus sportsplex. The complex, which will be located near the field house on campus according to Fowler, will be a great selling point for potential recruits as well as a source of pride for the small North Mississippi town. “Since we’ve started a program,” Fowler stated, “we’ve had to travel to nearby New Albany

(25 miles away) for games. With the building of the sports-plex, it will give us a sense of ownership as something that this town can be proud of.” For the Toppers, who will join the Southern States Athletic Conference next season, their 2013 schedule features trips to their future conference foes Faulkner and Auburn-Montgomery as well as home-and-home conference tilts with TransSouth power Freed-Hardmen and Bethel. It’s hard to say where will the Toppers finish in a five-team conference. However, with a healthy Richey and Wallis, Blue Mountain should be able to finish in the top 3 in the conference if the pitching can make a drastic improvement from last season, something that Fowler expects from his team. “We want to build a foundation in Blue Mountain,” he said, “And I think we’re on our way to doing that here.” - MSM

“When you had the big, live bat, you used to recruit big, strong kids and play for the big innings. That has changed quite a bit now. It’s about getting one run now and then get good pitching, good defense. I think the last year or two it’s been about concentrating more on good defenses and pitching. Pitching, you always have to have good pitching, I don’t care what league you’re in. You may never get enough pitching but that’s what it takes. You saw how pitching dominated the hitters in the playoffs of the Major Leagues. You have to have pitching and of course defense. Those two things go hand-in-hand. Then if you squeeze a run here, squeeze a run there, and get you two or three runs, if you have a good pitching staff and good defense, you can win those close games.” Besides his love for Ole Miss, Gibbs has another great reason to keep up with the Rebels in the future as his grandson, Luke, is now a freshman infielder on Bianco’s team. “Of course I’m very happy that he chose to go to Ole Miss. That’s what he wanted to do and he’s worked real hard to get where he is. He’s a good student, he’s a good kid and he’s a good worker and he just wants to play baseball and get an education here. He’s happy at Ole Miss and of course that means we’re happy. We just want the best for him. We know that there is a lot of work that has to be done, a lot of improvement that has to be done, and he knows that too,” Gibbs said. “I watched a good bit of the intrasquad games and I thought he had a good fall, in the field and at bat. Everybody strikes out but he made contact. He’s a solid baseball man. If you got a guy on second base, he’s going to get him over to third. I think he’s got a good future ahead of him but we’ll have to wait and see how it turns out.” Gibbs’ grandson is the third generation member of his family to play for the team. “I started it and then Dean, my oldest boy, he played football at Northwest (Mississippi Community College) and then he went to East Tennessee State with Jack

JAKE GIBBS University of Mississippi (1958-1961) • All-SEC football (’59, ‘60) • All-SEC baseball (’59, ‘60, ‘61) • SEC Champions baseball (’59, ‘60) • All-American, All-South quarterback (’60) • All-American baseball (’60, ‘61) • SEC Player of the Year, football, Nashville Banner (’60) • SEC Back of the Year, Atlanta Touchdown Club (’60) • FWAA National Champions, SEC Champions, football (’60) • All-District III, baseball (’60, ‘61) • Outstanding Player in Sugar Bowl, football (’61) • 3rd in Heisman Trophy balloting (’60) • College Football Hall of Fame (’95) • Ole Miss Team of the Century (’93) Carlisle. He played one year, hurt his knee and then he came back to Ole Miss. He was on our team for one year when Kyle Gordon was our first baseman,” Gibbs said. “Then Monte came a couple of years later and he played center field. They both played here and then to have a grandson, it’s three generations. It’s kind of nice.” MSM

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MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE - 69


STRICKLIN - Continued from Page 29

be and then we started with the first phase. I don’t know if it will take us that long but I think we need to take a similar approach with Dudy Noble. We need a long-range view. It is still a great venue and a great place to watch college baseball. The Left Field Lounge is unrivaled in uniqueness so there are a lot of things you don’t want to change. “But there are some things we need to update and tweak. So in the months ahead we need to start that planning process and create more fan-friendly areas and improve the overall experience for our fans while making sure Dudy Noble Field remains a crown jewel among college baseball atmospheres.” Concerning the play on the field, Stricklin has overseen success there as well. The football program played in a third-straight bowl and posted an eight-win regular season for the second time in the past three seasons under Mullen. But the way the 2012 season closed out with a disappointing loss in the Egg Bowl, Stricklin knows that didn’t sit too well with the fan base. Yet it shouldn’t overshadow the program’s progress under Mullen, he added. “It’s good to have expectations,” said Stricklin. “We want expectations. Sometimes we are going to meet our expectations and sometimes we are not going to be able to achieve every single goal we have. This was a year where we achieved a lot of things Dan and the team set out to achieve, but we didn’t achieve them all. “The most important thing for us is to build consistent success year after year and getting into postseason play on a consistent basis. This is only the second time in school history we’ve been to three straight bowl games and next year we can achieve a fourth straight bowl for the first time ever. That tells you Mississippi State is in a position we haven’t been in many times before.” Competing in the SEC with budgets much smaller than the likes of Alabama, LSU, Florida and Georgia, having those expectations is a healthy situation. The priority now is to maintain that competitiveness while enjoying how far the program has come of late. That can be a challenge in the SEC. “The key is, can we maintain it?,” said Stricklin. “Can we sustain success? Dan has done a good job of putting our program in as stable of a position as we’ve seen in a long, long time. Our fans should appreciate a bowl game, appreciate 8-win seasons and appreciate winning seasons. But losing to Ole Miss is something they should be disappointed about and it is something we all should be disappointed about. “So you never want to get comfortable with your losses but you also don’t want to not appreciate the success that does come.” Stricklin is also in the early stages of seeing 70 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

the men’s basketball program work towards laying the foundation. First-year head coach Rick Ray has experienced many setbacks and some of those setbacks started before the 2012-13 campaign even got underway. After seeing Rodney Hood transfer to Duke and Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney turn pro early, the Bulldogs then had a pair of freshmen - Jacoby Davis and Andre Applewhite - suffer season-ending ACL injuries. Once the season got underway, more injuries piled up and this time the injury bug hit the lone two veterans on the team. Junior Jalen Steele suffered a wrist injury in MSU’s home opener while senior center Wendell Lewis broke his patella. All in all, the Bulldogs entered January with just six healthy scholarship players. “He is very intelligent and very organized,” said Stricklin of Ray. “And he has great work ethic. Those are pretty important ingredients that go into being a successful coach. The thing we are finding out about him since he has been here is that he is tough as nails. Nothing bothers him. We get a bad break and it doesn’t bother him. The other thing is he hasn’t compromised on building the kind of program he wants to have.” But not once has Stricklin heard Ray alter from his vision for Bulldog Basketball. “I have a great appreciation for that, especially as a young coach,” said Stricklin. “You want to prove to people you can win and win right away, and it would be easy to take some short cuts and compromise on some discipline and in other areas in order to make a quick impression. But he hasn’t done that. “He doesn’t make excuses and that says a lot about the kind of person he is. It tells me he is the person for the job and the kind of person Mississippi State needed. We needed somebody that would have all those attributes and that toughest piece was the most important. I am excited to see us moving forward when he has a full roster. Even though they are shorthanded they haven’t quit and you see the fundamental pieces being put in place.” And seeing an athletics’ program as well as a university in general progressively grow is something Stricklin is familiar with these days. After all, the current building that includes his office – Bryan Athletic Building – was just land filled with trees when he was attending classes at Mississippi State. That and many other changes have taken place since Stricklin was a student at MSU, and those changes have been positive changes. Yet in this business, Stricklin said it is difficult to look back to see how far his alma mater has progressed. After all, this is the SEC and when you pause for a second to smile in contentment, someone else is moving a step ahead of you. “To be honest it’s hard because this is such a forward-looking position,” said Stricklin. “If

you take too long to look back then somebody else is blowing past you. But I hear from a lot of our fans about their level of pride for how far the university has come. Not just in athletics but in all areas under (MSU president) Dr. (Mark) Keenum’s leadership and the enrollment growth and the things going on with our campus. “It is a fun time to be back at this university and at a time where we are growing so much. There was a time where that might have been a challenge in the past, but that is no longer a challenge.” - MSM DSU - Continued from Page 59

side, pitching is always the key. You’ve got to have a strong pitching staff. The other elements compliment good pitching but if you don’t have good pitching its hard to win on hitting and defense alone,” he said. And Kinnison knows you’ve got to have quality and quantity throughout the complement of pitchers. “Pitching is always job one in recruiting and it gives you the best chance to win. So I always want to build around a strong pitching staff and you have to have depth when you play as many games as we do,” he said. “You’ve got to have specialist and you’ve got to have a complete staff to win big and win consistently.” Look for Kinnison to find a way to steer the Statesmen at or near the top of the conference barring any major injuries. And another postseason appearance – there’s enough talent for a long run but it will depend on the pitching to get that “50th win” for a title. - MSM M.C. - Continued from Page 63

in 2012 is Luke Hargett (6’1, 205). He gave up just five earned runs in 11.0 innings pitched in the early part of the year. Also coming back are junior Bucky Shipp (6’3, 220) and sophomore Andy Olmsted (6’0, 165). Shipp made three appearances last season and has made great strides in the offseason. Olmsted has been the surprise of the fall and could push to be the team’s closer after posting two scoreless innings in 2012. Some newcomers that will see innings in the early going include left-handers Chris Casto and Mac Murray. Casto could see action all over the field, while Murray is pushing for a starting spot in the rotation. Right-hander Blake McIllwain missed the entire 2012 season with an injury, but will look to be a part of the weekend rotation when the season rolls around. He has a toughness on the mound that the coaching staff cannot wait to see in game situations. Junior transfer Blake Roberts and freshman Jake Busby are two other righties that will get some innings when the Spring rolls around. - MSM


BELHAVEN - Continued from Page 63

did a great job teaching him how to pitch. They helped him develop command of his pitches and learn the mental side of the game. Hopefully he can continue to get better each time out and if he does what I have seen him do in junior college, he will really help us on the mound over the next couple of years. We are excited to have him.” Copeland, a native of Meridian, MS and transfer from Copiah Lincoln Community College, finished the 2012 season with a 4-3 record and an ERA of 2.23. He pitched 58.1 innings allowing only 14 walks while leading the Wolfpack pitching staff in strikeouts (51). He pitched a complete game no-hitter in the Wolfpack’s last home series of the year, an 8-0 win over the East Central Warriors. He was named NJCAA’s Division II Co-Pitcher of the Week for the week of April 23-29 and was an MACJC 2nd team All-State selection. “We are excited to have Tyler join our club,”

said Smith. “He has done a great job at Co-Lin and hopefully can step right in to fill a big role in our pitching staff. He is a strike thrower that is very competitive and if he does what we know he is capable of, he will pitch a lot for us.” Rogers will bring NCAA Division I experience with him from the University of Southern Mississippi. Rogers, a junior left hander, is a Jackson native and prepped at Hillcrest Christian High School. Rogers appeared in five games for the Golden Eagles in 2012. OVERVIEW Belhaven Head Coach Hill Denson and the Blazers are anxious to get the season underway and see what the 2013 club can do, especially the new pitching staff. The pitching staff and how it performs will play a major role in whether or not the 2013 campaign will be a success. “The main key to success is our young pitching staff,” said Denson. “Hopefully we’ll have some guys step up and pitch well for us.

If that happens we can be a very good ballclub.” The schedule for 2013 will feature some outstanding non-conference opponents along with familiar SSAC rivals in AuburnMontgomery, Mobile, Spring Hill, Loyola, Faulkner, Lee, and William Carey. There are a number of key non-conference games on the 2012 slate including showdowns with Blue Mountain College and LSU-Alexandria. Belhaven will also battle familiar non-conference opponents Bethel University (TN), FreedHardeman University (TN), and Tougaloo College (MS). The Cowboy Maloney Series between Belhaven, Millsaps, and Mississippi College will be contested again in 2013 with the Blazers playing Millsaps and Mississippi College three times each. Belhaven will open the regular season at home on January 25th at 4:00 PM in game one of a two game series against Blue Mountain College at Smith Wills Stadium. - MSM

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RICK CLEVELAND Follow Rick Cleveland on Twitter® @rick_cleveland

Remembering Ol’ Diz By RICK CLEVELAND Featured Columnist

T

he rural cemetery is modest, perhaps the size of a football field, surrounded by a chain link fence. It’s out from Bond, which is out from Wiggins, about 28 miles south of Hattiesburg, about equal distant from the sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast. Here, Jay Hannah “Dizzy” Dean rests side by side with his wife, Pat, in the morning shade of a cypress tree. To find Ol’ Diz’s grave, you turn east off Highway 49 onto a country road, and turn off that country road onto a bumpier country road. You drive through a blue-collar area where the folks don’t appear to have much. Knowing what I know about Dizzy, he probably would feel right at home here. These were his people. Dizzy Dean and his sidekick Peewee Reese introduced my Hattiesburg friends and me to baseball, as was the case of a generation of Americans in the time baseball really was our national pasttime. We were all Dizzy’s podners, and he made the games so much fun, no matter the score. We’d be out in the yard playing ball, and Mama would come to the window and yell, “Dizzy’s coming on TV!” And we’d scurry in the house to hear Diz describe the game and tell us stories. That he made his home 30 miles down the road made him all the more special. He bragged on Mississippi, his adopted home, all the time. He made even the most boring, one-sided games interesting. And if the games were really boring — or went into a rain delay — Dizzy would do his best Roy Acuff imitation with his own rendition of “The Wabash Cannonball.” Dizzy Dean made our English teachers cringe. That’s because Ol’ Diz did not speak the King’s English. Willie Mays didn’t slide into third base; no he slud. Mickey Mantle didn’t just swing at a pitch; no, he took “a ripple” at it. When somebody accused Diz of not knowing the King’s English, he shook his head and said, “I know the king is English. The queen is English, too.” When teachers criticized his syntax, Diz remarked, “Sin Tax? What will those folks in Washington think of next?” Dizzy had little formal education. Born in Arkansas in 1910, he was the son of tenant farmers. His mother died when he was 8. His father moved the family around quite a bit. Diz picked more cotton than went to school. Turns out, his real talent was pitching baseball. He pitched his way to the Major Leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals, winning 20 games in 1933 and then a remarkable 30 in 1934 when he was voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player. Alas, his playing 72 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

career was as short as it was brilliant. An arm injury, reputedly caused by a changed in throwing motion, necessitated by a broken toe, ended Dean’s pitching days. Diz immediately moved into the broadcast booth, first in radio and then TV. Pitchers “throwed” the ball. Batters “swang” at the pitches that were “throwed.” If a foul ball occurred, base runners returned to their “respectable” bases. You can learn all about Dizzy Dean on the second floor of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, where so much of his memorabilia was transferred from the old Dizzy Dean Museum when the Hall of Fame was finished in 1996. The museum tells his life story, and what a story it is. It includes the part about his beloved wife, the former Patricia “Pat” Nash, who brought Dizzy home to Wiggins, where they made their home. He was special, Diz was. I loved him like a favorite uncle and was thrilled beyond words — speechless, actually — when my daddy introduced me to him at a golf tournament one day in Hattiesburg. I followed him around 18 holes in a pro-am. He shot 75, beat his pro, and had more fun than anybody there — except maybe me. He wore bright red pants, which accentuated the fact that he widest at his equator. He hit a pronounced slice on nearly every shot. “My banana ball!” he called it. “You’d hit a slice, too, if you had to swing around this belly.” Several years later, in July of 1974, Diz died. By then, I was writing sports and was sent to cover the funeral at the First Baptist Church of Wiggins. My dad went with me. It was a sweltering summer day. You could see the heat devils rising of Highway 49 and when we pulled up at the church, there were TV trucks parked and people spilling out of the church. “Uh oh,” Dad said, “This is going to be a long one.” Why, I asked? “I’m guessing this Baptist preacher hasn’t had this many people or this many cameras before,” Dad answered. Dad was right. We sat with press and VIPs in a roped off area right behind Bear Bryant and Johnny Vaught. All of us sweated through our clothes. On the way home, we stopped at an old roadside honky-tonk — The Toot and Tell It — and went inside for one of the best cold beers in the history of the world. Falstaff, of course. That was Ol Diz’s beer. And so it was ours. - MSM


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MS Sports Magazine 2013 Baseball Preview