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Columbus players finalize college plans


Adam Minichino



Patience is crucial in the recruiting game. 


Sometimes it takes student-athletes weeks, if not months, to decide which school is the best fit academically and athletically. 


Other times, players have to wait until coaches sort out their classes and find out the plans of other recruits so they can take their next step. 


Josh Tentoni, Tyji Hawkins and Aurby Burdine played the waiting game and came out winners, finalizing their college plans Tuesday night at the Columbus High School Baseball Banquet. 


Tentoni, a catcher, and Hawkins, a pitcher/outfielder, signed national letters of intent with Holmes Community College, while Burdine, a first baseman/designated hitter, signed with Rust College. 


Holmes C.C. went 35-17 and was second (16-8) in the MACJC North Division this season. The team features several players with local ties, including Starkville High''s Jayson Keel and East Webster High''s Reggie O''Briant and Jermaine Liggins. 


Tentoni hit .354 with 20 RBIs, eight doubles, and two home runs. He threw out 60 percent of the baserunners who tried to steal against him. He was the division''s Defensive Player of the Year. 


Tentoni visited Holmes C.C. when the team played host to Itawamba C.C. He said he talked to assistant coach Ryan Beggs, learned how the coaches run the baseball program, and quickly discovered Holmes C.C. was the place he wanted to be. 


He had several workouts with the team and remained focused as the recruiting process lasted through the end of the junior college baseball season and into the postseason. 


Throughout the process, Tentoni said he repeatedly asked Beggs what it would take for him to realize an opportunity to play at Holmes C.C. He said Beggs continued to assure him he was the only catcher the team was looking at. He said that gave him confidence to know he had to be patient. 


"They asked me to come to a couple of workouts and while I was there it seemed like I was already signed," said Tentoni, who also considered Delta State, Coahoma C.C., and East Central C.C. "It feels good (to sign with Holmes C.C.). It is like a brick off my back. For four years this is your goal, to sign somewhere and play at the next level. It takes a lot of pressure off you to know you''re assured somewhere to go." 


Tentoni said he is eager to play for coach Kenny Dupont because he feels he can help him improve and assist him in taking the next step to play baseball at a four-year school. 


Hawkins hit .333 with six doubles, two triples, two home runs, and 17 RBIs. He was 3-1 with 5.36 ERA in 31 1/3 innings. Hawkins and Burdine were second-team All-Division picks. 


Hawkins said he is a very patient person, so he just sat back and waited for one of the Holmes C.C coaches to call him to let him know when things would be finalized. 


Tentoni and Hawkins worked out at Holmes C.C. last week for the final time. Hawkins said became dehydrated in a previous workout, but he said he did better in conditioning drills and in workouts in the outfield and off the mound in the final training session. 


"I knew it was going to come," said Hawkins, who didn''t plan to go to the same school as Tentoni. "They''re a winning program and they have great discipline in their players. The coaches expect a lot out of you, and I am ready to get down there and get started." 


Hawkins said he will have an opportunity to earn playing time in the outfield and at pitcher. He said it is comforting to know he has finally sealed the deal for college. 


"I am speechless," Hawkins said. 


Columbus High baseball coach Jeffrey Cook thought it finally set in with the guys that this was their last season to realize a goal of playing baseball in college. He said he saw a difference in how each one of them approached the game this season. 


"It really kicked in at the end of last year for Josh," Cook said. "I saw that maturity and growth over the summer. He knew it was time to step up. He has worked really, really hard this year and has improved his game. His attitude has just been tremendous. 


"Tyji has always had all of the athletic ability in the world. It took him a little longer to realize hey, this was it, but I am glad he did. I am proud of both of them for signing with Holmes. I think our district missed out with these guys." 


Tentoni, Hawkins, and Burdine join Stefan Hairston (Coahoma C.C) as signees from the Class of 2010. 


Burdine, who overcame knee surgery that slowed him in the beginning of the season, hit .373 with seven doubles and 15 RBIs. He said he hoped to go somewhere to continue his career. It didn''t take him long after meeting the Rust College baseball coach a couple of weeks ago to know he wanted to go to the school, a historically black, fully accredited liberal arts college in Holly Springs. It is the oldest historically black college in the state. 


"I am really blessed to have the opportunity," Burdine said. "Last season, I didn''t play too much varsity. In the offseason, I worked really hard in the offseason so I could play and try to keep a spot on the varsity. I am glad with the results I came out with." 


Burdine thanked Cook, assistant coach Mark Hysaw, and Andy Tentoni, Josh''s father, for working with him this season. He said Andy Tentoni went with him to the batting cages a lot and helped him come up with a new batting stance that helped him emerge as one of the team''s top hitters. 


"It feels great," Burdine said of the opportunity to play at Rust College. "God is the only one I can thank. If you put your life in His hands He will take care of you. He really will." 


Cook said Burdine worked extremely hard to realize an opportunity to be a first-year starter as a senior and to get a shot to continue his baseball career in college. 


"I started calling to try to find a place he wanted to play," Cook said. "I happened to come across the baseball coach at Rust and he came up here three days later and liked (Aurby). I am just excited for him. All our kids can learn from that, that you can work hard and do the right things and good things are going to happen to you." 



Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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