July 17, 2010 9:29:00 PM
Brent Hallmark has been a mainstay on the mound for the Cotton States Baseball League - North Division''s Tippah County Tribe all season.
But today''s starting assignment will be a little more special for Hallmark.
The former New Hope High School standout and rising junior at Delta State is scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. today for the Tribe when they take on the Golden Triangle Jets at New Hope High''s Trojan Field.
The game is one of three the CSBL North Division is playing away from its home site of New Albany in an attempt to help increase fan interest in the league.
Hallmark''s outing should help attract a solid crowd, even though he won''t pitch for the Jets, the "local" team.
"I have been excited ever since they told me they were moving the game to New Hope," Hallmark said. "It always has been a great field to play on, and I played there for four or five years when I was in high school. I have been telling everybody about it. I don''t want to say I get to pitch there one more time, but it is a chance to pitch again on that field. I really hope we have a good crowd and that it will be a good game."
Hallmark has done his share to see the Tribe (7-10-1) are in games when he is on the mound. The 6-foot, 195-pound right-hander This season, the 6-foot, 195-pound right-hander is 3-1 with a 1.11 ERA. He is tied for the league lead in victories and leads the CSBL in ERA. He also has walked 15 and struck out 52 (second best in the league) in 32 1/3 innings.
Hallmark''s efforts have the Tribe in third place in the CSBL at 7-10-1. The Golden Triangle Jets are second (9-5-2). The Tallahatchie Rascals (12-5) are in first place.
Hallmark has been able to build off a solid sophomore season at Delta State. After redshirting in 2008 and pitching only four innings in 2009, he went 1-1 with a 1.33 ERA and three saves in 16 games this season. He walked seven and struck out 25.
Hallmark, a 2007 graduate of New Hope High, has found a home in the bullpen at Delta State thanks to a suggestion by former Delta State and major league pitcher Matt Miller, who encouraged him to go to a sidearm delivery. The switch helped him regain his confidence and he has grown more and more comfortable with the mechanics in the past two seasons.
"I was at a low point in my baseball career and it helped me tremendously," Hallmark said of the change. "If it is not broken I don''t want to fix it."
In addition to altering his delivery, Hallmark said he had to overhaul his mental game. Today, he said he feels stronger mentally than he ever has been. He credits his coaches, his teammates, and his parents for not giving up on him and pushing him to keep battling.
At New Hope High, Hallmark started for three seasons for coach Stacy Hester. He earned All-Area and All-District honors three seasons in a row, going a combined 12-6 with 167 strikeouts in his final two seasons. He was MVP of the Dizzy Dean World Series his junior year.
In addition to playing with the Tribe, Hallmark is coaching a team in the CSBL''s high school league. His team was scheduled to play three games Saturday.
Hallmark wants to keep pushing himself on the field, too. He said he "never wants to settle for average" and needs to improve on throwing strikes. He believes his showing this summer will help him have an even better season in 2011 for Delta State.
"I didn''t give up," Hallmark said. "It is something my parents drilled into me, that no matter how hard anything in life is -- baseball or whatever -- that you can''t give up. I did a lot of praying and I stuck with it. I am not so much surprised (at his success) as I am thankful for it."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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