ALL-AREA BASEBALL: The Starting Lineup

Tanner Gaines
Baldwyn, P/SS, Junior
- Size: 6-1, 175.
- Numbers: 6-3, 1.34 ERA, 100 strikeouts, 19 BB; .451, 32 hits, 24 RBI; 20 putouts, 45 assists, .979 fielding pct.
n Quotable: “When he’s got the ball on the mound we got a chance to win. He’s the type of kid who wants the ball in big games.” – Baldwyn coach Gregg Tucker

Chase Reeves
Hamilton, P/1B/CF, Sophomore
- Size: 6-1, 190.
- Numbers: 8-1, 0.11 ERA, 91 strikeouts; .417, 7 HR, 27 RBI, 9 SB.
n Quotable: “He’s the guy you look for to produce when the game is on the line. Like any MVP on any team, that’s the guy you want at the plate and on the mound. Big games don’t bother him.” – Hamilton coach Lewis Earnest

Josh Hodges
Ingomar, P/SS, Senior
- Size: 6-7, 235.
- Numbers: 13-2, 1.41 ERA, 160 strikeouts; .506,16 hr, 55 RBI.
n Quotable: “Josh was the backbone of our team offensively and, of course, pitching as well. He’s a difference maker on any team. He can play any position on the field and be good at it.” – Ingomar coach Andy Wilbanks

Ben Kingsley
Mooreville, P/SS, Senior
- Size: 6-1, 195.
- Numbers: .403, 11 HR, 41 RBI, .730 OBP, .780 slugging, 30 SB
- Quotable: “He’s the type of kid that the better the competition the better he played. He proved that all year. It was on his shoulders to lead us and he did it.” – Mooreville coach Rex Berryman

Phillip Malatesta
P, Oxford, Senior
- Size: 6-2, 180.
- Numbers: 12-0, 2.16 ERA, 88 strikeouts, 22 BB.
- Quotable: “Phillip was absolutely a dominant force on the mound this year. Even on days he didn’t have his best stuff, he still found ways to win games. To me, that separates a good pitcher from a great pitcher.” – Oxford coach Bradley Roberson

Zach Chavers
Pontotoc, SS, Senior
- Size: 5-7, 170.
- Numbers: .456, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 40 R, 7 SB, .789 slugging.
n Quotable: “He kick-started our team. He can hurt you in a lot of ways. He was our spark plug. When he got on by hits or walks, he was the big reason why we had the success we did.” – Pontotoc coach Phil Webb
Dillon Payne
Saltillo, P/1B, Junior
- Size: 5-10, 185.
- Numbers: 7-3, 2.51 ERA, 102 strikeouts, 28 BB; .321, 8 RBI, .505 OBP, 12 SB; .952 fielding pct.
n Quotable: “Early in the season when we had some injuries to our pitchers, he pretty much carried us by throwing innings. He had a tremendous offseason in the weight room and everything. He got real competitive in the weight room. I think that kind of carried over some.” – Saltillo coach Johnny Bolen

David Bowen
South Pontotoc, C, Senior
- Size: 5-11, 190.
- Numbers: .370, 13 HR, 42 RBI; Threw out 4-of-6 base runners in steal attempts.
n Quotable: “He’s the vocal leader. He knows the game. Just an all-around, tough athlete. I think he’s one of the – if not the – best catchers in the state.” – Bryan Buckner, South Pontotoc

Jayson Keel
Starkville, CF, Senior
- Size: 5-11, 172.
- Numbers: .463, 8 HR, 33 RBI, 6 triples, 16 SB; 7 assists at home plate.
n Quotable: “He hits for power, he hits for average and he can run. He’s got a plus arm.” – Starkville coach Danny Carlisle

Chris Stratton
Tupelo, P/OF, Senior
- Size: 6-3, 180.
- Numbers: 7-2, 1.09 ERA, 11 CG, 6 shutouts, 113 strikeouts; .284, 2 HR, 17 RBI.
n Quotable: “Chris had not only the physical tools that a pitcher needed but he was extremely sharp mentally. That’s what separated him from being an average high school pitcher to being a great high school pitcher – his ability to be focused every pitch.” – Tupelo coach Gary Enis

On deck
The Daily Journal’s second 10
- Kyle Montet, Amory, P/SS, Senior

- Jordan Gurley, Corinth, P/SS, Senior

- Dillon Mitchell, Itawamba AHS, P/1B, Junior

- Justin Jordan, Myrtle, 3B, Senior

- Jeremy Ferguson, North Pontotoc, CF/P, Senior

- Montez Phillips, Lafayette County, OF, Senior

- Reginald O’Briant, East Webster, OF, Senior

- Craig Bullock, East Union, P/1B, Senior

- Latham Brister, Houston, P/SS, Senior

- Lex Rutledge, Tupelo, P/1B/OF, Senior

NEMS Daily Journal