On the football field or the baseball diamond, Millsaps College sophomore Will Hawkins is a hitter.
The former Nettleton standout was the fifth-leading tackler for the Majors in an 11-1 campaign last fall. Now, he leads Millsaps’ third-ranked baseball team in batting average (.455), hits (59), RBIs (48) and total bases (104).
Millsaps, 28-4 overall, has five more home games before the start of the SCAC tournament in Jackson on April 23, starting tonight against Emory.
“Right now, we’re just trying to bring everything together on this homestand, get a little more rest and get ready to win our conference tournament,” Hawkins said Thursday from Jackson. “From there, hopefully we can play our way into the College World Series.”
Millsaps has won three SCAC tourney titles in the past six seasons and came within a play at the plate in the bottom of the ninth of winning last season.
The Majors lost eight starters off that squad, but Hawkins said the year’s squad came into the season confident they could compete.
“The success we’ve had isn’t much of a surprise,” he said. “We have held each other to a high standard and we expected to pull together and win. We’re making each other better.
“We weren’t thinking about the postseason, because we knew we had some holes to fill. But that made all of us determined to prove ourselves.”
The 19-year-old Hawkins credits the Majors’ coaching staff for his improvement at the plate. He hit .346 last season to rank third on the team but his batting average has surged by .109 – comparing favorably to his .493 average as a senior for Nettleton’s Class 3A championship squad.
“It’s a lot tougher to hit at this level, but the coaches have done a lot to help me polish my mechanics,” Hawkins said. “There was nothing big to change with my swing, just small little details to help me drive the ball better.”
Looking at the national statistics, Millsaps leads all DIvision III teams in two categories that help fill the basepaths and keep runners advancing – hit by pitch (66) and sacrifice flies (24).
“We all have one goal,” Hawkins said, “to get on base, score and win, regardless. When there’s an inside pitch, we have a saying, ‘Take it, we’re chasing a dream.’ ”
Hawkins has walked 12 times against 18 strikeouts but has only been hit three times. “Pitchers don’t come inside against me very much,” he said.
The team’s two-time SCAC player of the year, outfielder Hunrter Owens, is a senior, but for the most part Hawkins is part of a young lineup. “Our goal is to build something this season and keep building into the future.”
Head coach Jim Page, in his 21st season with the Majors, got his 500th career win to open the season. He’s 527-302-3 at the school. … Former Northeast pitcher Shelby Robertson is 3-0 in 14 appearances this season. … Assistant coach Derrik Boland, in his first season with the team, is a Nettleton native.
John L. Pitts/Daily Journal