16 Feb

newbies of note

Never easy to predict which newcomers will have significant impact at the state’s Big 4 NCAA Division I schools. But there are some obvious ones to keep an eye on. To wit: At Ole Miss, there is freshman right-hander Grayson Saunier, already penciled in as the No. 2 starter for the defending national champs. He reportedly was quite impressive in the fall. Saunier, 6 feet 4, 200 pounds, was ranked in the Top 200 2022 drafts prospects by mlb.com as a senior at Colliersville High in Tennessee and was drafted in the 19th round by Texas, though he was firm in his commitment to the Rebels. (Colliersville, incidentally, is the school that produced Zack Cozart and Drew Pomeranz, who left UM as first-rounders en route to fine big league careers.) At Mississippi State, much attention will be focused on freshman outfielder Dakota Jordan, the ex-Jackson Academy star from Canton who was the state’s Gatorade player of the year in 2022. Also a Top 200 draft prospect, he went undrafted, likely because of his commitment to State. He batted .524 with 16 homers and 57 RBIs last year at JA. The SEC will be a different type of challenge. At Southern Miss, the much-traveled Tate Parker has landed as a transfer from juco national champ Pearl River Community College. The NJCAA Division II national player of the year in 2022 — when he batted .450 with 19 homers and set the school’s career homer mark — he’s in the running for an outfield job with the Golden Eagles, pegged by some as the top team in the Sun Belt Conference. (Parker’s brother Brandon is a former Gulf Coast CC star now in Atlanta’s system.) At Jackson State, Arderrius Townsend, a transfer from Northwest CC’s perennially strong program, might be one to watch. The 6-1, 225-pound outfielder hit 11 homers for the Rangers last season and was career .290 hitter in Senatobia. The D-I schools open their seasons on Friday. P.S. Kudos to Bridley Thomas, a newcomer at D-II Mississippi College, who hit for the cycle in a Choctaws win on Tuesday. Thomas, a Meridian CC transfer and former Northwest Rankin High standout, scored four runs and drove in two in that game for 2-6 MC.

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