23 May

you gotta be impressed

Kemp Alderman, following what his coach called one of the best individual seasons in Ole Miss history, won the Ferriss Trophy on Monday during a ceremony in Philadelphia. The junior from Decatur and Newton County Academy joins a list of previous Ferriss winners that includes Hunter Renfroe, Drew Pomeranz, Brent Rooker, Chris Stratton and Nick Sandlin. Alderman was among five deserving finalists for the 2023 award, given annually to the best player in the state by the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. As the five were being introduced prior to the announcement, it was tempting to fantasize about the type of club you could build around just this group. They are that good. In the leadoff spot, you’d have Ty Hill from Jackson State. The Saltillo native carried a .400 average most of the season before slipping to .390. He hit six homers, drove in 53 runs, scored 50, stole eight bases and drew 49 walks, posting a .524 on-base percentage. “He’d have more hits, but they won’t pitch to him,” JSU broadcaster Rob Jay said. Slot Slade Wilks in the 2-hole. The Southern Miss junior from Columbia hit .305 with 18 homers, 53 RBIs and a .650 slugging percentage. “What a player he has been,” USM coach Scott Berry said. “I’ve never had anybody who hits it as hard as Slade.” Berry recounted seeing Wilks hit a ball into the pines beyond right field at Taylor Park in Hattiesburg — as a 9th-grader. Alderman would hit third. He put up a .376 average, 19 homers, 61 RBIs, a .440 on-base average and a .709 slug. “He hits it as hard and as far anybody I’ve ever seen,” Rebels coach Mike Bianco said. Alderman didn’t have an immediate impact in Oxford. “To his credit, he went to work,” Bianco said. “He kept getting better and better.” Alderman thanked his coach for giving him the opportunity to play at his “dream school.” Mississippi State’s Hunter Hines fits the cleanup mold. The sophomore from Madison Central hit .297 with 22 homers, 61 RBIs and a .683 slug. “From his first BP (batting practice) until now, he’s been the best hitter in our program,” said State coach Chris Lemonis. “He loves to hit … and hunt.” Every team needs an ace, and USM’s Tanner Hall has certainly been that. The junior right-hander from Louisiana won the 2022 Ferriss Trophy and is having arguably a better 2023 season. He was 11-3 with a 2.45 ERA, a .203 average against and 100 strikeouts with 30 walks in 88 innings. “He’s had amazing back-to-back years,” Berry said. “He started every first game of every Sun Belt series and won nine of the 10.” You could round out the roster of this fantasy club with other players from the more than a dozen Ferriss nominees, some of which were all-conference selections at the smaller schools. The state is brimming with talent.