September 11, 2014 11:05:52 AM
New Hope High School senior baseball player Josh Stillman found familiarity when he visited Northeast Mississippi Community College.
That comfort level is a big reason why Stillman gave a verbal commitment Tuesday to play baseball in Booneville.
"Throughout the summer, I played summer ball to get some more exposure," Stillman said. "Northeast wanted me to come visit. I had heard great things about the school. Going around the campus, I really liked what I saw.
"I prayed about this decision, and I knew Northeast was where I wanted to be. I give all the glory to God for giving me this opportunity."
Northeast Mississippi is coached by Kent Farris, who just completed his eighth season in the spring. Farris was a former coach at Caledonia High School and Columbus High, as well as an assistant coach at New Hope High, where he coached current New Hope coach Lee Boyd.
"Coach Farris is from here and he knows my family real well, so that was big," Stillman said. "I like the whole coaching staff, though. I can tell this is a great place to be."
Former New Hope pitcher Landon Boyd, who was the ace on New Hope's Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state
championship squad in 2013, pitched at Northeast this past season.
"It is always good to have someone you know there, who you can talk to about the program," Stillman said. "He said he loved it so far. He said he has met some of his best friends there and it was a real enjoyable first year."
This past season, Stillman shared The Dispatch's All-Area Baseball Player of Year Honors with future Northeast teammate and former Columbus Falcon Trace Lee. Stillman was 8-0 with a 0.92 ERA. He hit .337 with 31 RBIs while playing the infield and pitching.
"Josh really had an under-the-radar season," Lee Boyd said. "We had some seniors everybody was familiar with. Josh really carried us on our back for some stretches. He was a hard worker, dependable as a hitter, and outstanding as a pitcher."
Stillman was the winning pitcher in New Hope's state championship-clinching victory against West Jones. In the 11-0, five-inning game, Stillman needed only 44 pitches and allowed one hit.
"The biggest thrill of my life was being on the mound for the final game of the state championship series," Stillman said. "I knew the coaches had some big expectations for me, and I had some big expectations myself. The season turned out even better than I had imagined."
Now Stillman will be charged with helping lead a young New Hope squad in its quest for an unprecedented third-straight state championship.
"It's a neat feeling being out there (at fall practice) with the older group," Stillman said. "The few seniors we do have will have to step up and lead. The team is working harder than ever. We are ready to get back out there and, hopefully, have another shot at another ring. We are working hard as we can during the offseason to get ready for that."
Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
3. MHSAA delays start of fall sports by two weeks HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS