Mississippi State freshman left-hander pitcher Nick Routt had a knack for going the route this season. Southeastern Conference coaches thought enough of Routt’s efforts to vote him Tuesday to the All-SEC Freshman Team. Routt was the only Bulldog to make the all-league teams. MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson wasn’t surprised Routt was honored because he had four complete games, all in the SEC.
University of Mississippi junior outfielder Jordan Henry has found a way to steal more bases and Southeastern Conference honors this season. After being named to the All-SEC second-team and earning SEC Freshman of the Year honors in 2007 and making the SEC All-Tournament team in 2008, the coaches Tuesday voted Henry a first-team All-SEC performer. Henry leads the SEC in walks (49) and with a school-record 33 stolen bases, which has caught the eye of coaches who’ve had to try and slow him down. Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin compares Henry to New York Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon because they bring similar qualities to the game.
Mississippi State Athletic Director Greg Byrne has faith in the basketball coaching staff’s ability to recruit players. Men’s basketball coach Rick Stansbury has had a busy offseason, with the signings of McDonald’s All-American Renardo Sidney, 7-foot-2 John Riek, and Wendell Lewis to national letters of intent. They join Shaunessy Smith, a Noxubee County High School senior, who signed with the Bulldogs last November.
Chuck Box and Brad Mitchell might not have won state championships as high school baseball players, but they have made up for it as coaches. Box, a graduate of former Caldwell High School in Columbus, won his third consecutive Mississippi Private School Association Class AAA state title at Jackson Prep on Saturday, while Mitchell, from Starkville, led Ackerman High to its first Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A state championship on Monday. Winning championships is nothing new to Box, who earned a state crown at Itawamba Community College in 1999 and a conference title at Freed-Hardeman University in 1997.
Tom Kelsey knows how to find players that fit his system. When you like to play a 94-foot game like the Belhaven men’s basketball team, a coach needs versatile players who can play multiple roles. Kelsey believes Woodie Howard fits that description. Listed at 6-foot-2, the former Starkville High School product isn’t the tallest player on the court. He’s not the best scorer on the floor, and he won’t dazzle fans with eye-popping dunks. But Howard can do everything a coach asks well, which is why Kelsey wanted Howard to join his program.
STARKVILLE — Hunting used to be a way for Dawn Branton and Kristi Brown to find time to spend with their husbands. Now their time tracking turkeys, deer, and antelope has become so much more. Not only has hunting helped them build a strong friendship, but it also has helped the women achieve a special honor. Last month in the Sierra Madre mountains in Chihuahua, Mexico, Branton and Brown killed their final turkey to complete their World Slams.
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State senior catcher Scott DeLoach wasn’t considered much of a factor for playing time when the baseball season began. DeLoach was projected for defensive purposes to spell sophomore Cody Freeman and junior Ryan Duffy. But by the end of the season, DeLoach assumed a bigger role than he had ever dreamed. DeLoach not only played, but he finished the season as Mississippi State’s leading hitter with a .353 batting average.
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State freshman starting pitcher Devin Jones had a rough outing against LSU on Saturday afternoon and was pulled after two innings. It wasn’t his final appearance of the day, however. Despite a 15-4 loss to LSU in the final game of the season, which included a 1 hour and 57 minute rain delay, the Mississippi State Bulldogs found a way to have a good time. After giving up six runs on seven hits, Jones probably wished he could’ve found a hole to crawl into and hide. His teammates wouldn’t allow that, however.
If things work out this weekend, Alexis Rack, of the Mississippi State women’s basketball team, will be a little busier this summer than she anticipated. The rising senior guard at Mississippi State is at the USA Basketball National Team Trials at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. East Mississippi Community College women’s basketball coach Sharon Thompson, a former women’s basketball player at MSU, also is in Colorado working as a court coach who is helping work the player in drills.
Missed opportunities aren’t any less frustrating in the spring. The only solace for New Hope coach Michael Bradley, Starkville coach Bill Lee, and Amory coach Pat Byrd is that their results in the New Hope High School Jamboree won’t count against them in the 2009 season. New Hope, Starkville and Amory completed its spring seasons Friday in action that also featured Pontotoc and Shannon. Starkville defeated Amory 21-7 and lost 10-7 to Pontotoc. Pontotoc defeated Amory 7-0. Those results were two-quarter games.
Junior Noel continues to mine the Golden Triangle for its top soccer talent. The East Mississippi Community College men’s soccer coach landed two more standouts Friday when he signed Caledonia High School’s Tyler Pounders and Columbus High’s Mike Hayward to national letters of intent.
Richard Martin had the Columbus High School boys soccer program on the verge of making the Class 5A playoffs this season. In his three seasons as coach, the Falcons improved from three, to nine to 11 victories. Now someone else will have to take the team to the next level. Martin recently announced he was stepping down as boys soccer coach at Columbus High to spend more time with his family.
MABEN — East Webster High School is losing three coaches and gaining a principal in one man. Bill Brand, who coached girls basketball and slow- and fast-pitch softball at the school this year, recently accepted a job offer to return to work as East Webster High School’s principal. Brand will take over for Phil Ferguson effective July 1.
MABEN — Wanda McPhail admitted Friday morning she was the lucky one. It was easy to see why McPhail used that word after listening to her read the resumes of Kaley Allen and Jessica Halterman. After reading an impressive set of accomplishments, McPhail watched as the East Webster High School academic and athletic standouts signed national letters of intent to play tennis at Meridian Community College.
STARKVILLE –– The Mississippi State baseball team could not hold a lead Thursday night, suffering a 5-4 loss to second-ranked LSU in a Southeastern Conference game at Dudy Noble Field. Mississippi State (24-28, 8-19) led 4-1 before LSU scored three runs in the seventh inning and one run in the eighth. Mississippi State needed to sweep the three-game series with LSU to finish the season with a .500 record.
It has been 30 years since his first visit to Mississippi State’s Dudy Noble Field, but LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri said his return this weekend is special. Mainieri’s first experience at the Bulldogs’ home came in 1979 as a player at the University of New Orleans. The Privateers played in the NCAA tournament in Starkville that season. Mainieri’s relationship with the MSU fans took a positive turn in 2000 when he was the head coach at Notre Dame.
WEST POINT — Big plays usually are few and far between in spring football games. Like many sports, defenses typically get the better of offenses in preseason or games early in the season. That wasn’t the case Thursday night at McCallister Field at Hamblin Stadium. Tajh Ford had three touchdowns, including a 92-yard kickoff return for a score, to help Louisville High School defeat West Point 32-24 in the spring finale for both teams.
MACON — Vincent Sanders and Gussie Lane already can hear the haters. They likely are some of the same people who said the Noxubee County football team got lucky in 2007 when it advanced to the Class 4A state title game. Those doubters rejoiced when Laurel edged Noxubee County 19-16 to win the 2007 championship. The chatter kicked up again last year as the Tigers set out on a mission to finish the drill and win a Class 4A state title. Their hard work and team unity silenced the critics and D’Iberville in a 12-10 victory that gave the Tigers their elusive crown.
MACON — Reggie Harris couldn’t pass up this opportunity. As much as the former Noxubee County High School football player and coach wanted to remain at his alma mater, he felt he was ready to take a chance on becoming a head coach. It didn’t take long for someone to agree. Sunflower County School Superintendent Peirce McIntosh hired Harris last month to become the new football coach at Ruleville Central High School.
MACON — One loss can change a season. It can also test the resolve of a team that believes it is destined to win a state championship. The Central Academy slow-pitch softball team faced that challenge after it saw a double-digit lead vanish against Russell Christian en route to a 27-24 loss in the regular season. The players called the result “amazing.” Coaches Sammy Lindsey and Pres Dawkins called the defeat “mind boggling” and wondered if it would rattle their players and ruin the title dreams in an otherwise promising start to the season. There was no need to be concerned.