By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Ben Kingsley and his Delta State baseball teammates didn’t take the easy road to the program’s 11th College World Series appearance.
Second-ranked Delta State (46-13) faced five season-ending games in the NCAA South Regional at Tampa – and won them all.
Kingsley, the junior designated hitter from Mooreville, went 6 for 22 (.272) and scored five runs as Delta State battled its way to the regional title and a World Series berth.
“I’m not surprised at all that we were able to win five must-win games,” Kingsley said Friday. “We’ve got a great lineup, 1-through-9, and everything just came together.”
Delta State opens its Division II World Series appearance today against St. Mary’s of Texas (28-9) in a first-round game at Cary, N.C. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. Central.
“Reaching the World Series was a goal from the first day of practice in the fall,” Kingsley said. “This is a program with a great tradition.”
Delta State won the D-II championship in 2004.
A Daily Journal All-Area selection as a senior at Mooreville, Kingsley is in his first season at DSU after two strong seasons at Meridian Community College.
“Meridian always showed a lot of interest in me,” Kingsley said. “I thought it offered me the best chance to get to the next level.”
After hitting ,403 as a senior in high school, Kingsley topped .400 as a freshman at Meridian, then led the nation with 19 home runs as a sophomore.
“My dad always told me, if you can hit, they’ll find a place for you,” Kingsley said.
This season at Delta, he’s hitting .321 with three home runs and is third on the team in runs (49) and tied for third in RBIs (46).
“I went through a little drought this season and the coaches stuck with me,” Kingsley said. “Once we reached the postseason, it seems like everything came together.”
He hit .417 (10 for 24) in six Gulf South Conference tournament games and was named to the All-GSC Tourney team.
“The week before the Gulf South tournament, I couldn’t hit my way out of a wet paper sack,” Kingsley said. “But I got that first hit in the tourney and it seemed like everything fell into place.”
At the NCAA regional, a 6-5 loss to Alabama-Huntsville put the Statesmen in a tough spot, needing to win five in a row to advance.
“We got in the huddle after the game and said we’d just see how far we could get,” Kingsley said. “We said we’d take it one pitch, one inning at a time.”
Delta State rolled up a 41-23 scoring edge on the way to the regional title. “After we came back and beat Huntsville in the 10th inning of that game, we knew we could win the whole thing,” Kingsley said.
Junior Jordan Moore, from Calhoun City, is a starting pitcher for the Statesmen. He’s 7-1 this season in 12 appearances (nine starts) with a 3.45 ERA. Moore was the winning starter in the GSC championship game.