COLUMN: Baseball Magazine is here; a run through of some of the area's top baseball players

By ANDREW ABADIE,

The PineBeltSPORTS baseball magazine has finally arrived!

Yes, with the high school season on hold, it is somewhat bittersweet and although this may be a biased opinion, the magazine came out great. But even with the season on pause, this magazine is something that is worth your time.

This year’s edition features two different front covers but is the same inside. The two front covers features five different area teams. The magazine can be picked up at our office at 525 N. Main St., Suite C. in downtown Hattiesburg. Each magazine is $3.99 each and comes with a copy of our baseball poster.

As the baseball magazine came out this week, I got to thinking. With high school sports on pause (knock on wood that it does not change to canceled) I started to think about which senior players I was looking forward to watching the most.

Now it’s worth pointing out, that a lot of these seniors on the list began starting for their respective schools right when I first started covering high school baseball in the Pine Belt, so this is somewhat sentimental in a way.

The way I compiled this list was looking at all the senior players' seasons as well as the expectation surrounding certain players entering the season.

Without further ado here are my top 10 senior seasons I was most looking forward to watching.

 

10. Forrest County AHS – Luke Odom

I have never actually gotten to watch Odom play, but I remember in his sophomore season at Sacred Heart that Luke was quite the impact for that team. As he transferred to FCHAS, Odom was forced to sit out after being ruled ineligible. In six games this season, Odom had a batting average of .333 along with eight RBI and a home run.

 

9. Petal – Logan Walters

Walters’ bat was one of the most efficient for the Panthers. With a .393 average, Walters’ ability to deliver runs was clutch as he had 14 RBI with 10 games into the season. Walters was critical in Petal’s win over rival Oak Grove as he delivered a 350-foot home run in that game.

 

8Sacred Heart – Luke Hicks

The Crusaders returned an experienced bunch heading into the year. With Larry Watkins taking over as the skipper, Sacred Heart was primed for a year which came to fruition as the Crusaders held a 9-1 record. Helping lead the charge on the mound and batter’s box was Hicks who was hitting .448 and held a .44 earned run average to go along with his 21 strikeouts.

 

7. Oak Grove – DeeJay Booth 

Booth has been an absolute slugger for the Warriors the past several years. Booth was hitting just .385, but, in the past season, he could have streaks of being on absolute tears. I was also curious to see how pitching would pan out for Booth as he held a 1.27 ERA.

 

6. Hattiesburg – Jerry Burkett

The Tigers were off to a 9-1 start, and helping lead Hattiesburg’s offense was Burkett, who posted a .469 average. Earlier in the season, I got to see Burkett deliver a no-doubt grand slam out of Smokey Harrington Park against Laurel. On the mound, Burkett registered 37 strikeouts while holding a .28 ERA.

 

5. Petal – Matt Mercer

Mercer was a key part of last year’s Panther’s team and is one of the few players in the game of baseball that really can play every position on the field. Knee injuries kept him from playing behind the plate, but his bat and arm were really coming into their own. Mercer held a .346 average and a home run while holding a 2.62 ERA.

 

4. Hattiesburg – Caleb Tart 

Over the years, I have seen Tart put together a highlight reel of defensive plays in the infield for the Tigers. As a key part of the 2018 state championship team, I was interested to see how things would unfold for him. Tart held a .414 average along with a 2.52 ERA.

 

3. Sumrall - John Cody Stogner

The sidearm pitcher had a memorable season in 2019 and 2020 looked to be similar for Stogner. In eight appearances, Stogner held a .71 ERA and totaled 17 strikeouts in a team-leading 23 innings.  

 

2. Purvis – Jesse Johnson 

Johnson has been a name to remember for the Pine Belt for quite some time. The four-year starter has been a consistent dual threat for Tornados in the last several years. Johnson’s bat has been streaky at times, but when it gets hot lookout. Despite hitting .227, on the mound, Johnson had been close to lights out as he had 28 strikeouts in three appearances.

 

1. Oak Grove – Turner Swistak      

Swistak had the making for a really memorable year. As expected, on the mound he was dominant as he totaled 27 strikeouts in four appearances to go with his .39 ERA. But Swistak’s bat look to be just as dominant as he was hitting .386, had seven doubles and two home runs.